NAIROBI, Kenya, August 8- Olympic champion, Pamela Jelimo led the Kenyan women 800m brigade into punching their semi final tickets as African champion, Edwin Soi crashed out of London 2012 on Wednesday.
Jelimo, looking imperious in her heat, slowed down in the final 50m after disengaging from the field with 300m to win her preliminary race in 2:00.54, the mark that was the second fastest of the heats.
Employing Greek runner Eléni Filándra as the ‘rabbit’, Jelimo allowed the leader to cross 400m at 59.21 but on the back straight, the Beijing winner and World Indoor champion eased past and revved her powerful engine to take them through 600m in 1:29.59 before shifting the gears backwards as she came for the finish.
Her Beijing bridesmaid Janeth Jepkosgei was also in fine tune, taking her heat in 2:01.04 in the race where Saudi athlete, Sarah Attar, made history as the first female from her Islamic nation to compete at the Olympics.
Attar, to much cheer from the London Olympic Stadium crowd, finished last in 2:44.95 but it marked one of the Olympic moments that will resonate for generations to come.
2009 World Youth titleholder and last year’s Worlds semi-finalist, Cherono Koech, the third Kenyan in the two-lap event squeezed through to the semis after being given third in a photo finish to her qualifier.
She ran 2:08.43 in the slowest heat of the round and she was in precarious risk of being knocked out on time but she managed to cling on to the last qualifying berth.
Other favourites including world champion, Mariya Saminova (Russia), 2009 World champion, Caster Semenya (South Africa), Halima Hachlaf (Morocco) and Burundi sensation, Francine Niyonsaba made it through to the penultimate round.
Earlier, Africa champion and Beijing Olympics bronze winner, Edwin Soi was the biggest casualty of the men 5000m heats.
Compatriots 2010 World Junior champion, Isaiah Kiplangat and Beijing 12th finisher Thomas Longosiwa progressed to Sunday’s final as Soi crashed out at the qualifiers when he ran 13:27.06 to finish sixth in the first race.
The Nairobi 2010 winner missed out on one of the fastest five losers slots after fading badly in the last lap in the race won by Azerbijani runner Hayle Ibrahimov in 13:35.23 as Kiplangat came home second in 13:25.64.
Olympic 10,000m champion, Mo Farah (13:26.00), Kenyan born American runner, Lopez Lomong (13:26.16) and Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet (13:26.16) filed past the Beijing silver winner to lock out the first five automatic qualification slots.
It was yet another crushing blow for Team Kenya that has received a battering at London 2012 thus far as Soi’s prayers of bagging a slot on time were dashed when the subsequent race produced quicker times than his race.
Ethiopians Dejen Gebremeskel (13:15.15) and Yenew Alamirew (13:15.39) relegated Longosiwa (13:15.41) to third but the Worlds sixth finisher did enough to earn his place in the medal race.