DAEGU, South Korea, August 28- The grand old warrior of Kenyan race walking, David Kimutai did not enjoy one last hooray at the World Championships on Saturday morning when he could only finish 32nd in the men 20km final.
On the track during Day 2’s morning session, Kenya’s trio in the women 1500m led by Olympics champion, Nancy Jebet Langat, former world junior champion, Viola Kibiwott and first timer, Hellen Obiri, sailed through to Tuesday’s semi finals.
Kimutai, 42, the eldest member of Team Kenya however, declared he was not done with next year’s Olympics firmly in his sights in yet another show of the indefatigable spirit that has made him carry the nation’s race walking mantle for over a decade.
The race started under chastising humidity of over 80 percent and tempered heat that did the field no favours but in the end, Kimutai’s tried and tested legs could not withstand the might of the field led by Russian pair, Valeriy Borchin (1:19:56) and Vladimir Kanaykin (1:20:27) who took the top two medals.
Colombia’s Luis Fernando Lopez (1:20:38, SB) prevented the podium sweep by taking the bronze while Kimutai finished the race in a year best time of 1:27:20, beating only six other finishers.
“I’m still strong and next year, I will try to qualify for the Olympics and that will be my last walking race if I make it,” Kimutai, who turned up for his second World Championships said.
Should he succeed in his ambition, the African silver medallist and Commonwealth Games fourth finisher will race in his fourth Olympics after featuring in the Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008 Games.
He attributed his long run at the top of the Kenyan men race walking map to discipline and respect for his body but as nears his exit to take up coaching, the veteran believes he has left the rarely acknowledged event in good hands.
“This year, there were 30 competitors in the Kenyan Trials for Daegu and next year, we could be 35. It shows the interest is growing and it is a matter of time before we improve,” he explained.
In the women’s metric mile first round, Langat flirted with a shock exit before gathering some energy to hold on to fifth (4:14.37) to book her place in the semis in the opening round that turned out to the slowest of the day won by Britain’s Hannah England in 4:13.45.
In the second, Obiri, who won the Kenyan trials, continued to chart new frontiers in her career when she recorded a personal best of 4:07.59 (the quickest of the Kenyans) to finish fourth to seal her automatic qualification.
“I started at the back and only pushed to the front when we came for the finish. The pace was not too hard and I managed to run my personal best and I expect it to be faster in the next race,” Obiri, who is coached by the Sydney Olympics men 1500m champion, Noah Ngeny, who watched from the sidelines expressed.
Kibiwott, who has established herself in the Kenyan set-up since starring as a junior but is yet to command the heights in senior running, was the best placed Kenyan performer of the opening rounds when she raced to 4:10.74 for third.
“I had to push in the last 500m since if you are boxed, you cannot qualify since they only need six qualifiers,” Kibiwott said.
– Mutwiri Mutuota is reporting for Capital Sport from Daegu, South Korea