NAIROBI, August 15 – World champion Janeth Jepkosgei and World junior record holder Pamela Jelimo strolled to the semifinals of 800 metres in day one of the athletics programme at the Beijing Olympics early Friday.
Deploying different tactics, the duo barely broke sweat asserting their billing as the gold medal favourites in the two lap race with convincing victories in their respective heats.
Starting in lane eight, Africa champion Jelimo started cautiously running within herself and was third at the bell. She moved to the shoulder of race leader Kenia Sinclair of Jamaica with 200 metres to go.
The teenager then powered forward in the final straight to register a comfortable win in 2:03.18 – her slowest time of the year. Sinclair 2:03.76 while Frenchwoman Elodie Guegan was third in 2:03.85.
Running in the final heat, Jepkosgei was fast off the blocks quickly laying down the marker with a 57.71 seconds first lap. She maintained her pace, increasing it by three seconds to win in 1:59.72.
Mozambique legend Maria Mutola set the fastest time of the heats timing 1:58.91. The pack was quick off the blocks doing the first lap in 57.93 seconds before the Maputo Express sped past the leader Marilyn Okoro to win with a seasonal best.
Kenyan athletes resume duty in the evening session, with the 1500 metres men’s team starting their quest to win the country’s first gold in the race since the 2000 games in Sydney.
All Africa Games champion Asbel Kiprop will get a close look at his Kenyan-born American rival Bernard Lagat as both are drawn together in heat two. Kiprop has been in great form setting a new personal best of 3:31.64 in Rome last month and should go through.
Commonwealth Games champion Augustine Choge should also comfortably make the next round. The 22 year old is in fine fettle this season having won the competitive national trials as well as setting the world’s second fastest time of the season of 3:31.57.
Eighteen year old Nicholas Kemboi faces a baptism of fire in heat three and hopefully stage fright will not get the better of him.
World bronze medallist Eunice Jepkorir will then lead the hunt for a place in the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase final. All Africa Games champion Ruth Bosibori will also be in action together with former World junior champion Veronica Nyaruai.
The day’s first track final will be the women’s 10,000 metres final with Commonwealth champion Lucy Kabuu, World Cross Country Silver medallist Linet Masai and Peninah Arusei aiming to win Kenya her medal of the championships.