Athletics Athletics

For Kenya, London 2012 finally gets underway


NAIROBI, Kenya, August 2- No Kenyan can be forgiven for thinking their London 2012 Olympics will start on Friday when their acclaimed runners make their bow at the event during the opening day of track and field action.

Since the majestic opening to the action last Friday, Kenyans have sat back and witnessed other nations climb the hallowed podium but that is all set to change.

By the end of the day, the country hopes to have heard her anthem played for the first time at the 30th Olympiad or at least, witnessed the red, green and black flag hoisted aloft to celebrate a medal at the London Stadium.

The eagerly anticipated women 10,000m will start at 11:25pm where double world champion, Vivian Cheruiyot is seeking to accomplish her first step towards entering Kenya’s folklore as the first winner of two gold medals at the same Olympics.

World championships silver winner, Sally Kipyego and All Africa Games silver medallist, Joyce Chepkirui are also in the showdown that Kenya expects to open her medal account at London 2012.

The country’s charge will start at 1:15 pm local time when the 400m Hurdlers Vincent Koskei and Boniface Mucheru bid to qualify for the semis of an event Kenya is yet to toast medal success at the games.

Mucheru, 20, made his name at the recent Africa Athletics Championships where he won silver in the hurdles lap-race before running to the bronze in the 400m in Benin.

This earned him inclusion for his Olympics debut where he will also compete in the 4X400m relay.
The more experienced Koskei, 26, will also be making his Olympics debut having finished fourth at the continental event in his speciality was in the Kenyan 4X400m team that won bronze in Porto Novo.

Last year, Koskei finished fifth (49.49) in the heats at his World Championships debut to exit the competition having finished fourth in a career best 49.36 at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi a year earlier.

He set a season best of 50.22 when winning his heat at Nationals in June where he eventually finished third in the medal race.

The next Kenyan runners on show will be the men 3000m steeplechase trio made up of the last two Olympic champions in the shape of titleholder, Brimin Kipruto and his predecessor Ezekiel Kemboi alongside freshly minted African gold winner, Abel Mutai.

Olympics debutant Mutai will be first off the mark in the water and barriers race heats that start at 3pm when he chases the ticket for Sunday’s final in an event where Beijing silver winner, France’s Mekhissi Benabbad will also feature.

Kipruto who is seeking to be the first man to defend the men steeplechase title will be next up in Heat 2 where he is pooled with among others, Uganda’s rising star Jacob Araptany before Kemboi who has bagged the last two world titles lines-up to compete in the third heat.

Kipruto, Kemboi and Mutai are aiming to complete the steeplechase podium sweep for the first time since 2004 where the world champion led the defending Olympics titleholder and Paul Kipsiele Koech across the line.

At 10:05pm, the much vaunted men 1500m squad of Olympics and World champion, Asbel Kiprop, Commonwealth winner and Worlds silver medallist, Silas Kiplagat and Diamond League winner, Nixon Chepseba will feature in the heats of their events.

Kiprop, who was awarded the Beijing gold belatedly after initial winner Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzy was sanctioned for doping, will be the first off the start in the tricky first heat where among others Ethiopia’s Mekonnen Gebremedhin, Leonel Manzano of the US and Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria lay in wait to end his title defence at the first hurdle.

Kiplagat is in Heat 2 alongside the Moroccan ace, Amine Laalou, former compatriot Ilham Tanui Ozbilen now running for Turkey and another US hopeful Andrew Wheating. Chepseba will round up the 1500m showing in the third heat that has New Zealand’s Nick Willis, Morocco’s Abdelaati Higuidar and the third American Matt Centrowitz.

The semis of the metric mile men’s race are set for Sunday ahead of the Tuesday final where the Kenyan trio who lead the 2012 charts hope to make history by completing a podium sweep.