NAIROBI, July 4 – Former Africa champion David Kimutai and Commonwealth Games champion Lucy Kabuu were the standout performers in day one of the national athletics trials at Nyayo national stadium on Friday.
Kimutai clocked an impressive 1:22:20 to win the men’s 20 kilometre walk and attain the Olympic qualifying mark in day one of the national trials.
The 38 year old veteran will thus make his third appearance at the Olympics, “I am overjoyed to make the team. I had an injury in Addis during the Africa Championships which hindered me but today I was determined to make the team so pushed really hard. I am looking forward to improve my time in Beijing.”
Kabuu then scorched a tough 10,000 metres field to win in 32:18.6. “I am grateful to God for helping me win today and make the team. Now I am going to work hard for Beijing because I believe anyone can win that race if one works hard,” she said.
Unheralded Peninah Arusei provided the shock of the day by finishing second in 32:19.3 snatching the second automatic place in the race. The 29 year old army woman has not even attained qualifying time but she put up a great fight to edge out Africa 5,000 metres bronze medallist Grace Momanyi who came third.
“I didn’t think I could finish second because there were so many champions and medallists who were in the race but I am happy because I was able to beat them,” she said.
With a quality top field of 19 athletes, the race was cagey for the first ten laps with all top dogs watching each other. Alice Timbilil then decided to shake things up upping the pace for the next three laps.
With six laps to go, Kabuu decided she had had enough moving to the front and shifting through the gears. A very fast lap saw the leading pack reduced to Edith MAsai, Timbilil, Momanyi, Linet Masai and Kabuu.
Masai made her move with four laps but could not pull away and whine Kabuu injected another burst of pace a lap later, only Arusei hang on. She moved ahead of Kabuu at the bell but as they approached the final straight, Kabuu powered forward to win comfortably.
Masai could only manage fifth as Phyllis Ongori overtook her to finish fourth.
In the men’s 800 metres, American based teenager Boaz Lalang ran the fastest time of the day to win heat one in 1:45.32
The 19 year old college student edged out former World indoor champion Wilfred Bungei who finished second with Ismael Kombich coming third.
In the second heat, world champion Alfred Kirwa coasted to victory in a slow time of 1:48.27. Africa games bronze medallist Justus Koech was second with Jackson Kivuva finishing third.
Former 800 metres Africa champion Alex Kipchirchir made the final as one of the fastest losers after finishing fourth in heat one in 1:46.29 as well as national champion Edwin Leting who was fifth in the same heat.
Action resumes Saturday when most finals are slated.
The men’s 1500 metres will provide the highlight of the day with so many top athletes fighting for a place in the Beijing squad. Though Commonwealth games champion Augustine Choge will start as favourite, the filed is absolutely world class.
All African games champion Asbel Kiprop, national champion and Africa silver medallist Gideon Gathimba, Africa champion Haron Keitany, former Africa champion Alex Kipchirchir, World junior champion Remmy Limo and Daniel Kipchirchir will be on show.
The men’s 10,000 metres will also be tough with World Cross Country silver medallist Leonard Patrick Komon, World half marathon record holder Samuel Wanjiru, World bronze medallist Martin Mathathi, Moses Masai, Josephat Ndambiri and Mark Kiptoo all fighting for the three available places.
The men’s 5,000 metres will be just as tough with Eliud Kipchoge, Isaac Songok, Joseph Ebuya, Edwin Soi and Thomas Longosiwa expected to stage a titanic battle.