NAIROBI, September 13 – Kenyan top track stars will be in action when the international athletics calendar comes to a thrilling climax at the World Athletics Final (WAF) in Stuttgart.
Arguably the biggest conglomeration of top notch athletes, the two day event is like a mini World championships with athletes battling it out for the season’s final honours on Saturday and Sunday.
Over $3 million will be on offer as athletes seek bring down the curtain on another gruelling year in athletics.
Winners will claim $30,000, runners up $20,000 while third placed athletes will get $12,000. In addition, anyone who breaks a world record stands to get a $100,000 bonus.
Twenty two Kenyan athletes who were in Beijing will be on show in Stuttgart hoping to walk away with the lucrative prizes.
The rest of the World has largely played second fiddle to the stunning exploits of 18 year old Pamela Jelimo and the trend should continue in Stuttgart on Sunday.
Already an Olympic and African champion and a world junior record holder, Jelimo has been in a class of her own with only the clock for company and another possible attempt at the world record is feasible.
World champion Janeth Jepkosgei was untouchable in last season’s final but so much has changed since then and she will be looking to emerge best of the rest in the two lap race.
World Silver medallist Vivian Cheruiyot has had a tough year battling illness but she looked impressive in Brussels beating Former Olympic champion and world record holder Meseret Defar in 5,000 metres.
The Ethiopian has had a lean year by her very own impeccable standards and an upset seems to be in the offing.
Viola Kibiwott, Pauline Korkwiang, and Sylvia Kibet complete a formidable Kenyan presence in the race.
After being dropped from the 10,000 metres team in Beijing, Africa 5,000 metres bronze medallist Grace Momanyi will be looking to finish her season on the up.
She will however to contend with tough opposition from a slew of Kenyans and Ethiopians.
Kenyan Linet Masai finished fourth in the Beijing 10,000m with a World junior and Kenyan record 30:26.50, and more recently was a distant third in the Brussels 5000.
Kenyan trials winner and Olympic 5000m finalist Priscah Jepleting, Olympic 10,000m finalist and Paris 5000m winner Lucy Kabuu Wangui, and Ethiopia’s African 5000m champion Meselech Melkamu could all be factors.
3,000 metres steeplechase
Olympic silver medallist Eunice Jepkorir has improved in leaps and bounds and she will get another crack at Olympic champion and world record holder Samitova Galkina.
World junior record holder and 2007 IAAF rising star Ruth Bosibori will also be in the hunt for a podium position.
In the absence of Olympic champion Wilfred Bungei, reigning World champion Alfred Kirwa Yego will be the man to beat. The diminutive athlete has been in fine form this season and goes in as the favourite.
Kenyan born Bahrain Youssef Saad Kamel who has been in great shape since the Olympics and could yet pose the greatest challenge.
A WAF winner in 2004 in Monaco and again last year in Stuttgart and a bronze medallist at the World indoors in March, the 27-year-old scorched an Asian record 1:42.79 in Monaco just prior to Beijing and in his last outing over the distance, powerfully defeated a strong field in Brussels.
Others to watch include Ugandan Abraham Chepkirwok, the winner in London and more recently third in Brussels; Moroccan Amine Laalou, the winner in Rome (1:44.27); and South African Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, who clocked 1:43.26 in Monaco.
Olympic silver medallist Asbel Kiprop has been on the upward curve this year running a new personal best of 3:31.64 in Rome before winning silver in Beijing. Still only 19, Kiprop could yet finish the season on a high as he continues his development.
His main challenge will be in the shape of African champion Haron Keitany. The 24 year old registered an impressive win in Zurich three weeks ago and posses a deadly finishing kick top rival Kiprop’s.
A pair of Kenyan born Bahrainis will pose the toughest challenge with Belal Mansoor Ali who won in Brussels and Kamel who won in Lausanne hoping to spoil the party.
New Zealand’s Olympic bronze medallist Nick Willis and Morocco’s’ Abdalaati Iguider complete a formidable field.
In last year’s WAF final, Edwin Soi sped away to win both the 3,000 metres and 5,000 metres titles and he starts as favourite here on Sunday. The 22 year old won bronze in 5,000 metres and his turn of his speed in the final 200 metres makes him a top contender.
There is a strong Kenyans contingent in the race with Africa 5,000 metres silver medallist Isaac Songok, Abraham Chebii and Mark Kiptoo.
The challenge if any will come in the unlikely shape of two Americans. Kenyan born American Bernard Lagat and Mathew Tegenkamp will be looking to spoil the party for Kenyans.
With six Kenyans and three Ethiopians, this will be a straight duel between the East Africa nations.
World indoor champion Tariku Bekele, Ali Abdosh and Markos Geneti lead the Ethiopian charge but with Soi intending to double, it could yet be another win for the Kenyan.
Olympic silver medallist Eliud Kipchoge is in the reckoning as is Moses Masai Ndiema who has run the second fastsest time in the world this year.
Add Olympic 10,000 metres bronze medallist Micah Kogo and you have a quality field.
3,000 metres steeplechase
Paul Kipsiele Koech has a point to prove having missed out on the Olympics.
His fourth place finish at the national trials was his only loss of the season and he has the top four times this year including 8:00.57 in Holland.
He won last year’s final in a storming run and another is in the cards going by his post Olympic form.
He has already floored all three medallists from Beijing and he will again be favourite to edge out Olympic and World champ Brimin Kipruto, Richard Mateelong and 2004 champion Ezekiel Kemboi and surprise silver medallist Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France.
Former Kenyans will again provide token resistance with Taher Tareq Mubarak the main challenger and Sweden’s Mustafa Mohammed.