NAIROBI, Kenya, April 17- On a day when a deep field of distance track athletes were given a first taste of the journey to the Olympics, All Africa Games Javelin champion, Julius Yego ran away with headlines by inching closest to London.
The occasion had been headlined as the Athletics Kenya (AK) men 10000m Pre-Olympics Trial but Yego got proceedings underway in the undercard events in spectacular fashion when he hurled a national record of 79.95m to attain the London B-Standard for the Javelin.
Yego is on the cusp of a maiden Olympics appearance and first for a Kenyan Javelin thrower when he beat his own 78.34m previous mark set when he won the All Africa Games in Maputo last year in his very first throw on Tuesday.
“It makes me feel so happy that I’m now among the record holders in Kenya and the first to qualify with the B-Standard for the Olympics in this country,” the man of the hour who had just returned from a two-month training stint in Finland said.
“I have greatly improved my technique there since Javelin in Finland is like distance running in Kenya and my dream is to be the first from this country to enter the stadium in the event I love,” the elated Pan Africa Games champ added.
AK general secretary, David Okeyo, said only the national Trials in July stood between Yego and a London ticket if no other athlete betters his effort in the intervening period or at the selection event.
“We are very happy for him and it shows the benefits of sending him to train in Finland. We expect him to do better and the door for London is open for him since we believe he can even throws the A-Standard,” he added.
In the scheduled show stopper, the 2009 Worlds bronze winner, Moses Masai, completed a remarkable comeback when he topped a quality field in 28:10.3 to lead the queue for the June 2 Pre Fontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon where the final Olympics selection will be made.
The truly dreary race that started at an average pace of 69 seconds in the opening laps saw Wilson Kiprop, the World Half titleholder, lead the 17 starters through the initial stages as national coaches, Julius Kirwa and Peter Mathu raved in the sidelines for the pace to be taken up.
Masai, who lost the third medal in Beijing to Micah Kogo in a dead heat finish then took over and extended the speed to an average of 64 per lap with Olympics 5000m Olympics silver winner, Eliud Kipchoge, African 5000m bronze medallist, Mark Kiptoo and Edinburgh junior World Cross bronze winner, Lucas Rotich giving chase.
With eight laps to go, first Josphat Kiprono Menjo who was eighth at the 2007 World Championships then Philemon Yator who is the 5000m bridesmaid at the African Championships dropped in quick succession.
With 15 left in the race, the cap for Pre Fontaine put by AK before the showdown, the pace once again slackened before Kipchoge got to his zone with three left.
Behind him, Rotich, Masai and Kiptoo kept close tabs as he went through the bell in front but the Edinburgh bronze winner edged past with 350 to go and on the homestretch, Masai took charge and held out for the win.
“The race was good for me today because my injury is now gone so I have seen that I’m in good shape so my chances for the Olympics are good.
“In Beijing, I missed the bronze medal and if I get the chance, this time I want to get something for me and my country,” Masai, the former double African 5000m and 10000m junior gold winner expressed.
Kipchoge, who led the challengers home in 28:11.0 ahead of Rotich who clocked 28:12.0 for the bronze explained he was seeking new frontiers in London.
“I have been running 5000m in the last two Olympics and for the third; I want to run the 10000m. I hope to be among the three Kenyans and since I have my best of 26:49 in the distance, I see no harm even if this was my first 10K in Kenya,” Kipchoge, the Athens bronze and Beijing Olympics winner expressed.
Kiptoo (28:17.4) former World junior champ and Josphat Bett (28:27.6) closed the top five.
All finishers bar sixth placed Kogo (28:31.0) and Daniel Siele in 11th were named in the squad for the Pre Fontaine Trial with the pair seeing their Olympics dream in the event end since they had not broken the A-Standard of 27:45.00.
Japan based runners including World Cross senior silver winner, Paul Tanui (28:34.2) and All Africa Games 10000m silver winner Bedan Karoki (28:39.8) who came home in the seventh and ninth places found the high humidity and altitude a stern test with Kiprop (28:46.2) fading to tenth.
The selected team was given a three day break before reporting at the High Altitude Training Centre in Eldoret to continue their preparations for the June 2 Pre Fontaine Classic.
Elsewhere, Commonwealth Games 400m gold medallist, Mark Mutai (46.0) edged out World Youth silver medallist Alphas Kishoyian (46.2) in the lap event with Boniface Mucheru finishing third (46.5).
A 4X400m relay team was also selected for the Penn Relays in the United States after the event.
1. Moses Masai 28:10.3
2. Eliud Kipchoge 28:11.0
3. Lucas Rotich 28:12.0
4. Mark Kiptoo 28:17.4
5. Josphat Bett 28:27.6
6. Micha Kogo 28:31.0
7. Paul Tanui 28:34.2
8. Emmanuel Bett 28:35.6
9. Bedan Karoki 28:39.8
10. Wilson Kiprop 28:46.2
1. Julius Yego 79.95 (NR)
2. Sammy Keskeny 71.26
(Other competitors did not register legal throws)
1. Mark Mutai 46.0
2. Alphas Kishoyian 46.2
3. Boniface Mucheru 46.5
4. Julius Koskei 46.7
PRE FONTAINE SQUAD
Moses Masai, Eliud Kipchoge, Lucas Rotich, Mark Kiptoo, Josphat Bett, Paul Tanui, Emmanuel Bett, Bedan Karoki, Wilson Kiprop, Titus Mbishei, Mark Kigen, Geoffrey Kirui, Dennis Masai.
PENN RELAYS TEAM
Mark Mutai, Alphas Kishoyian, Anderson Mureta, Boniface Mucheru, Vincent Mumo