Jelimo was the first on the tracks in Heat 1 which she comfortably won in 1:59.42 holding off the charging Russian Ekaterina Poistogova (1:59.45) to set up her opportunity to achieve greatness in Saturday’s final.
She was among the leading pack in the first lap choosing to tactically run behind Poistogova who was joined by Eleni Filandra of Greece as the early pacesetters, before she began to power at the sound of the bell and overtook the leader at the final bend and motored away to buy space before easing off close to the finish.
Jepkosgei who on Wednesday was in fine tune in round 1 qualifications was third in Heat 2 in 1:58.26 but qualified as the fastest loser in the race won by South Africa’s Caster Semenya who powered to finish in a season best of 1:57.67 ahead of Russian Elena Arzakhova who qualified in 1:58.13.
It was the best performance of the night and poses a fresh threat to the Kenyan charges since it was the quickest Semenya, the 2009 World champion has ran in two seasons.
Jepkosgei sustained her front running style crossed 400m ahead before the bell but began to lose the command shortly after as Semenya powered from fifth at the last curve before easing past the field at the homestretch.
Jepkosgei tried hard to keep up with her faded 50m from the line as Arzakhova also went past for the second automatic berth.
Former World Youth titleholder Cherono Koech, the third Kenyan in the event finished fifth in a season best of 2:00.53 after having squeezed through to the semis.
The last year’s Worlds semi-finalist on her Olympic debut was third at the end of the opening lap but couldn’t match up with the experienced field that included World Champion Mariya Savinova of Russia who won in (1:58.57) and Burundian sensation Francine Niyonsaba who posted a new national record of 1:58.67 to earn her an automatic slot
Four years ago, Jelimo dared history as she became the first female athlete from her nation to win an Olympics gold on the track in a remarkable debut season when she led Jepkosgei to the line in the two-lap final, stopping the clock at a staggering 1:54.87.
In March this year, Jelimo showed her desire of clinching the medal as she sparked in the World Indoors in Istanbul running a world leading time of 1:58.83 to secure her nation her first ever female title at the closed circuit event.
Shortly after, she propelled to a leading 1:56.94 victory in the opening Diamond League meeting in Doha in May before breezing to the honours at the Ostrava Golden Spike (1:58.49) later that month to confirm her comeback to the top of the women two-lap race.
She had sailed through to the semi final with a solid run in her heats with the fastest time of 2:00.54 at the Olympic stadium.
“In the Olympics, it is very tough everyone is a champion. I want to work very hard to cross the line before everyone,” she said soon after booking her place in squad at the national trials on June.
“Nothing would make me happier than defending my title and becoming the first woman to win the 800m title twice. I will however, run my own race and I do not want to underestimate anyone or be over confident,” she underlined before departure to London to face destiny.
She carries soaring hopes for her nation a triumph in itself, having endured three seasons of upsets following her impressive spell in 2008 where the Kiptamuk village born runner came from the backwaters to command global approval.
Her preparations for the London feat had compelled the ‘Kapsabet Express’ to knuckle down and return to the ‘garage’ to gain the finishing burst needed to land her a second Olympics gold.
“I have been performing poorly on speed and that is why I ran the 400m at the Nationals,” she admitted after booking her place in London.
In July, her management Golazo Sports, organised a rare 600m race in Belgium where, she clocked a world leading 1:23.35 and coupled with the 52.14 performance over the 400m distance she recorded at the June national trials that the title holder is stocking on the thrust needed to power her to gold.
“I will run my own race, everyone is in shape. I will train harder than usual and I don’t want to be over confident. I feel that I’m getting close to the shape I was in before,” she underlined her London objective after that race.
– By Tony Kariuki[cresta-social-share]