NAIROBI, Kenya, June 21- David Rudisha, the world champion and record holder in 800m, led a slew of favourites in booking their places in Saturday finals of Kenya’s last London Olympics selection Trials on Thursday.
Despite chilly and overcast weather, Rudisha cleared the first hurdle in the race to make his Olympics debut when he seamlessly motored around the Nyayo National Stadium tartan in 1:44.0, the fastest performance of the day.
“My main aim was to qualify for Saturday. My training has responded nicely but of course, there is a lot of pressure as world champion and record holder to win the Olympics (gold) medal,” Rudisha, who breezed to the world leading 1:41.74 at the New York Grand Prix in his last outing stated.
Boaz Lalang, the Commonwealth gold winner, was notably the biggest victim of Thursday’s preliminary rounds when he dropped out of the same heat with 200m to go.
“I did not time my meals well, I had breakfast late today and coming to the race, my stomach was heavy so after the first 500m that when I felt bad pain and going to 600, it got worse and I decided not to injure myself by continuing running.
“I know it’s going to stress me since I had prepared for this Games and since now I did not make it, this is bad for me. I was hoping to go to London and get a medal but that is shattered,” the distraught Delhi winner said after watching his dream of making a second successive Olympics crushed in cruel fashion.
Another frontrunner that amazingly fell by wayside is World Youth record holder and champion, Leonard Konsencha who despite leading the second heat into the last 600m, suddenly fell off the pace and faded to last in 1:47.2.
“He was sick coming to the race and he could not continue,” Athletics Kenya (AK) relations officer, Peter Angwenyi explained the unexpected caving in of Konsecha who ran a national junior record of 1:43.60 in Rabat, Morocco last month.
The Commonwealth Youth silver medallist came to the race ranked fourth on the world list with his effort in Morroco where he finished second.
However, fellow teenage hopeful, Timothy Kitum who beat Kosencha to the gold in Isle of Man and won bronze at Lille’s World Youth overcame the first hurdle in the Olympics race when he trailed Rudisha to the line in 1:44.2.
Olympics bronze winner and 2007 World champion, Alfred Kirwa, is among the established order that will queue up for the final when he finished third in the second preliminary in 1:46.2.
“The final will not be easy, everyone is form and I expect a fast race. I started my training late but my target was to be ready for the Olympics. I’m happy for making the final,” the athlete who was seventh during the Worlds final last year, declared.
“I was disappointed not to win a medal in Daegu since I was going through many problems having just lost my mother but this time, I’m ready,” Kirwa, who failed to place in the podium in his first major final since he made his Team Kenya debut at the 2004 World Juniors, added.
The race was won by the rising Job Kinyor, who clocked 1:45.6 to edge out Commonwealth silver winner, Richard Kiplagat (1:45.9) in the race that saw the London aspirations of African bronze winner and Berlin Worlds finalist, Jackson Kivuva also buried.
Kinyor, Rudisha’s bridesmaid at the opening Diamond League meeting in Doha (1:43.6, PB), won bronze at last year’s All Africa Games and has established himself this season with a string of eye catching displays, including victory at the Kawasaki Grand Prix in Japan last month.
In the men 1500m preliminaries, seeded runners led by Olympics champion, Asbel Kiprop, navigated the first hurdle with ease to maintain the eagerly anticipated showdown in the race for London on Saturday.
Kiprop took no chances while dispatching his opponents in the second heat by returning 3:49.8 ahead of 2008 World Juniors silver medallist, James Magut (3:50.3) and reigning World Junior titleholder, Caleb Mwangangi (3:50.1) who filled the top three.
The first heat was won by Diamond League champion, Nixon Chepseba in 3:44.1 as Worlds silver winner, world leader and Commonwealth Games champion, Silas Kiplagat (3:44.4) contented in holding on to second as exciting youngster, Collins Cheboi (3:44.4) arrived third.
Olympics silver winner, Eliud Kipchoge, kept his charge for a third successive Olympics alive when he finished second in the first 5000m semi final, training World Junior 3000m champion, Isaiah Kiplangat Koech, who came to the event as the second fastest runner this year over 5000m.
The timer returned 13:24.1 against 13:24.6 as the margin between the winner and runner-up as Kipchoge contested in his speciality after missing out on selection during the longer 10000m selection event at the June 2 Pre Fontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon.
Daegu sixth finisher, Thomas Longosiwa won the other semi in 13:30.6 to edge out African titleholder, Edwin Soi (13:30.7) in a flying finish as the silver winner from Nairobi 2010, Vincent Yator (13:31.1) won the battle for third against the 2007 World Cross senior bronze medallist, Vincent Chepkok (13:31.4).
Organisers scrapped the men and women 3000m steeplechase, women 800m and women 1500m preliminaries after failing to secure enough numbers to contest meaning they will be straight finals on Saturday.
Athletics Kenya (AK) will present to the National Olympics Committee a list of 37 runners to be added to 13 who have qualified thus far for the London Olympics track and field team.
Heat 1:- David Rudisha 1:44.0, 2. Timothy Kitum 1:44.3, 3. Abraham Chirchir 1:45.0, 4. Anthony Chemut 1:45.3, 5. Nicholas Kiplagat 1:45.9
1. Job Kinyor 1:45.6, 2. Richard Kiplagat 1:45.9, 3. Alfred Yego 1:46.2, 4. Edward Kemboi 1:46.2, 5. Andrew Kiptoo 1:46.7
Heat 1:- Nixon Chepseba 3:44.1, 2. Silas Kiplagat 3:44.4, 3. Collins Cheboi 3:44.4, 4. Vincent Mutai 3:44.7, 5.Vickon Polonet 3:45. 0
Heat 2: Asbel Kiprop 3:49.8, 2. James Magut 3:50.0, 3. Caleb Mwangangi 3:50.1, 4. Bethwel Birgen 3:50.3
Heat 1:-1. Isaiah Kiplangat 13:24.1, 2. Eliud Kipchoge 13:24.6, 3. Timothy Kiptoo 13:25.0, 4. Jacob Cheshari 13:28.0, 5. Mark Kiptoo 13:29.0
Heat 2:- 1. Thomas Longosiwa, 13:30.6, 2. Edwin Soi 13:30.7, 3. Vincent Yator 13:31.1, 4. Vincent Chepkok 13:31.4, 5. Geoffrey Kipsang 13:31.6