NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 23 – As his role model and icon David Rudisha sat quietly up the Nyayo Stadium stands watching the day’s proceedings from a vantage point, World Junior 800m champion Kipyegon Bett was salivating at his crown ahead of August’s IAAF World Athletics Championships.
Bett who has already beaten Rudisha once this year, targets another victory over the reigning World Champion and record holder having qualified for the finals of the Kenyan trials on Friday afternoon with an easy win in his semi-final.
The 19-year old effortlessly crossed the finish line in a time of 1:45.9 ahead of erstwhile unheralded Michael Saruni and Job Kinyor who finished second and third respectively to pick the automatic qualification slots.
“I feel I am in very good shape and my big target is the World Championships. It feels great to come from the juniors and then progress so smoothly. Ahead of the final tomorrow, my only target is to get the London ticket,” Bett told Capital Sport, sweat still trickling but not enough to wipe the glee off his face.
“I know Rudisha is a very experienced athlete who has won many races in the world, but I am not intimidated. I want to take after him and come August, I would wish to beat him to the title if I get the ticket on Saturday,” Bett noted.
As the defending champion, Rudisha has a direct ticket to London and will be joined by three others who will cross the finish line in that order on Saturday.
In his quest for a ticket into team Kenya, Bett will have to endure tough competition from two-time Diamond race winner Ferguson Rotich who won the second semi-final and is eager to improve his fourth place finish from Beijing two years ago.
Speaking after winning in a time of 1:45.2, Rotich also said he feels is body is getting into shape despite finishing third and 10th in the two Diamond League races he has run this year in Shanghai and Rome respectively.
From the second semi final, Emmanuel Korir as well as another former World Junior and Youth Champion Alfred Kipketer picked the next two qualifying slots. Courtesy of clocking fast times, Jackson Kivuva and Bernard Kipyego also went through to the final.
In the 3,000m steeplechase, Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto and 2014 African Champion Jairus Birech won their respective semi-finals and lead the hunt into Saturday’s final.
Kipruto who beat three-time World Champion Ezekiel Kemboi to the Olympic title last year will be hoping for a repeat in London and the ease at which he won his semi at Nyayo Stadium spoke volumes of a man confident in his abilities.
The silver medalist from the last championship in Beijing crossed the line in 8:36.0 after coming from behind, stretching his hand towards second placed Benjamin Kigen signaling him to slow down as he is the ‘king of the race’.
Birech topped the second semi which was a bit faster as it had a heavier look, finishing in 8:34.7 ahead of 2007 World and 2008 Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto who finished second in 8:35.1.
Reigning World Junior Champion Amos Kirui came in third in a time of 8:35.4 as he plays on the shadows of the seniors, hoping to take the mantle when they call it a day.
-Sawe High Jump dream too high-
At the same time, Mathew Sawe’s dream of becoming the first ever Kenyan high jumper at a world event came to a screeching halt after failing to clear the required 2:30m, his best jump being at 2:20.
Sawe began at 2.10 then 2.15, easily clearing the distances. His first attempt at 2.20 was futile but cleared it on the second bite of the cherry. He next tried 2.26 but couldn’t clear the distance 1cm higher than his personal best.
Also, the finals for the short races which had been set for early morning were shelved to Saturday owing to the absence of the electronic timers which are mandatory according to IAAF rules for times to be certified.
All focus will be on national record holder Mark Otieno who will be chasing a time of 10.12, two fractions of a second faster than the record he set during the national championships last month.