NAIROBI, August 21 – Former World Indoor champion Wilfred Bungei showed there is life in the old war horse yet by comfortably winning his heat to book place in Saturday’s 800 metres final at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
The 28 year old showed the reigning Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy and Morocco’s Amin Laalou a clean pair of heels to win in 1:46.23 on Thursday afternoon.
In the second heat, reigning World Champion Alfred Kirwa Yego made a bold statement when he cruised home in 1:44.73 – the fastest time in the semifinals.
The diminutive athlete was in second place throughout before kicking for home with 200 metres to go. Sudan’s Ismail Ahmed Ismail was second in 1:44.91.
The sheer pace of the heat saw the two fastest qualifiers both come from the heat with Yousef Saad Kamel and Nadjim Manseur getting a second bite of the cherry in the final after finishing third and fourth respectively.
No such good news for the third Kenyan as Boaz Lalang came in third in the final heat won by Nabil Maldi. His time of 1:45.87 was not quick enough and he bows out of the competition.
The shock of the semifinals however was the last place finish by Sudan’s wonderkid Abubaker Kaki. The teenage sensation was struggling from the start before visibly slowing down in the last lap to limp home in 1:49.19.
The defending champion Borzakovskiy, South Africa’s Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Laalou also missed out but the absence of the World fastest man as well as World indoor champion was certainly unexpected.
Earlier, Nancy Jebet Lagat showed a good turn of speed to win her heat and qualify for Saturday’s 1500 metres women’s final in 4:03.02.
The experienced athlete hang at the back of the pack for most of the race before purposefully moving forward with 300 to go and looks all set for the final.
No such good news for Viola Kibiwott who was fifth in heat two in 4:15.62. Twenty year old Irene Jelagat fared no better finishing tenth in 4:09.92.
The 5,000 metres women trio of Vivian Cheruiyot, Prsicah Cherono and Sylvia Kibet will line up in the final of Friday afternoon.
They will however have to contend with the Ethiopian trio of Tirunesh Dibaba, Meseret Defar and Meselech Melkamu.
The duel between Dibaba and Defar is expected to be brutal with the Kenyans hoping to take advantage of their bitter rivalry.
Kenya is currently the top ranked African nation with two gold, four silver and two bronze.