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The hard work begins

NAIROBI, Kenya, July 18- With the dust now finally settled on what turned out to be yet another gripping chapter of Kenya’s selection process to a global athletics event, the onus is on the 53 chosen to do duty in Korea to live-up to expectations.

From Hellen Obiri’s stunning victory over Olympic champion, Nancy Jebet Langat in the women’s 1500m to the astonishing soil record set by Commonwealth titleholder, Silas Kiplagat in the corresponding men’s race, the three-day National Bank of Kenya/AK National Athletics Championships duly separated wheat from chaff.

The main event of the meeting that ended Saturday was in no doubt world record holder, David Rudisha who stepped to the theatre and played his headline role to perfection albeit with a ‘slow’ 1:43.76 that although impressive on high altitude, was still off his 1:42.84 land record.

“I’m grateful to have completed half of the journey. No all that remains is to go to South Korea and win the world championship gold. I however, do say it will not be straight forward and the work has only begun,” Rudisha who was escorted to the podium by African bronze winner, Jackson Kivuva and Worlds silver holder, Alfred Kirwa Yego stated.

Rudisha who caused Nyayo National Stadium to rock as he powered to the victory summed the feelings of most top athletes who won the Daegu tickets, among them, three Olympic champions and four World titleholders coroneted in Berlin two years ago.

Add a seasoning of Commonwealth and area champions, medallist at Olympics, Worlds, Commonwealth and Africa in addition to the sprinkling of debutants and you have a squad capable of improving on their fourth overall place they achieved in 2009.

“I only started running 1500m this season after my coach Noah Ngeny told me to abandon 800m when I joined his camp. That I have made the team at the first time of asking is a dream but I know the most difficult part is yet to come,” Obiri who motored away from Langat at the final curve for her shock victory said of her national team debut.

Another Team Kenya first timer, Sally Kipyego expressed, “I still cannot believe I made this team, God knows how hard I have prayed and worked for it. That I’m going to compete against the best in the world is yet to sink in but for now, I want to delight in the moment.”

The US based nine-time NCAA collegiate circuit champion expertly trailed world 5000m champ, Vivian Cheruiyot, to the tape to bag the second automatic place in the 10000m.

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Graduating junior runners who starred at last year’s World Juniors also gave a good account of themselves led by men 3000m titleholder, Isaiah Kiplangat Koech who won the hotly contested 5000m and women’s equivalent, Mercy Cherono who came third over the distance.

“I have learnt my lessons by running with the seniors and my expectations in Korea are modest since it will be my first Worlds. What I’m going to do in training is to ensure I’m in the shape to stick with them and who knows what might happen,” Cherono said.

“We set out to ensure only the best athletes are selected during the Trials and we have achieved that. What remains is to ensure their form does not dip and above all, they are given all the support they can get,” Athletics Kenya boss, Isaiah Kiplagat, said.

However, behind the elation of making the team, the danger of failing to hit the heights abounds especially where individual glory conflicts with team interest.

“We have seen other runners particularly the French come between us at recent major events and I have to say it does not please me to see us working as individuals when we go out there and we should stop,” Commonwealth and African champion, Richard Mateelong, who was the bridesmaid to Olympic winner, Brimin Kipruto in the men’s 3000m steeplechase rued.

At the Beijing Olympics, France’s Mekhissi Benabbad ended what was a ‘customary’ Kenyan men steeplechase 1-2-3 by taking the silver while a year later, compatriot Bouabdellah Tahri nicked bronze.

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