Athletics Athletics

Will Jelimo come to the rescue?


NAIROBI, Kenya, August 11- Years, months, weeks and days have passed since the ‘Kapsabet Express’ impressively motored to Olympics gold in Beijing in a landmark performance for female track running for Kenya.

As the high pre-London 2012 hopes for the country continue to dwindle with every passing distance running final, Kenya will once again turn to another dose of Pamela Jelimo relief when she queues up to defend her crown at 10pm local time.

“I know the higher we go, the harder it becomes. I’m confident, what is important for me is to relax and not to be nervous because I know everyone is in shape. What is also important for me is to keep myself going to the next level,” she stated prior to the medal race.

Having won her heat in 2:00.54 (August 8) and her semi in 1:59.42 (August 9), the titleholder has looked something like the teenager who took the world by storm in 2008 having laid down her credentials by bagging Kenya’s first female World Indoor gold medal in March.

Although some of the scorching speed she displayed on her breakthrough season where she set a world junior record of 1:54.01 and won the Olympics title in 1:54.87 has been lacking in her reinvention year, her nation can nonetheless look up to her to once again fly the flag at the event that has thrilled and disappointed in equal measure thus far.

Unlike Beijing where she was head and shoulders above the rest, Jelimo will have her plate full on Saturday night when she bids to become the first woman in history to defend the Olympics 800m title.

Starting in lane six, Jelimo comes up against powerful competition fronted by reigning world champion Mariya Savinova (Russia) and her South African predecessor, Caster Semenya who looked back to her most dangerous during the semis where she ran a 1:57.67 season’s best.

Compatriot Janeth Jepkosgei, the third former world title holder in the field, Burundi’s exciting sensation Francine Niyonsaba and the Russian pair Ekaterina Poistogova and Elena Arzhakova as well as American Alysia Montano also stand in the way of the ‘Kapsabet Express’.

Having dared and come trumps against history before, Jelimo is confident she can deliver.

In the men 5000m, the talk of London is home runner Mo Farah bid to win his second medal of the Games having already taken the 10,000m title earlier in the week.

But Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba – who ‘only’ took bronze in the 5000m after winning the 10,000m – showed just how hard a distance double can be.

The Kenyan corner has world junior record holder, Isaiah Kiplangat Koech and Beijing 12th finisher Thomas Longosiwa after African champion, Edwin Soi fell by the wayside at the heats.

Of the pair, the ‘Chairman’ as Kiplangat is known in parody with Athletics Kenya boss, Isaiah Kiplagat, looks the most likely to storm into the podium having ran a season’s best of 12:48.64 in Paris last month that is the third fastest of the year.

However, London 2012 has shown scant respect for statistics; just ask the metric mile trio of Asbel Kiprop, Silas Kiplagat and Nixon Chepseba who came in as the top three in the world!

Farah, the World champion in the event will be up against strong Ethiopian opposition, all of whom are running on fresh legs, having not raced in the 10,000m.

World leader Dejen Gebremeskel could be the biggest danger. A 12:46 man at best, the Ethiopian made his heat victory look very easy and has beaten Farah in the past.

Meanwhile, the USA has three strong entrants in 10,000m silver medallist Galen Rupp, former World champion Bernard Lagat and Lopez Lomong.

Before the track exponents take to the start, ‘You Tube Man’ Julius Yego will be the first Kenyan in the stadium starting at 9:20pm local time in the men Javelin final.

Yego, the first African Olympics finalist at the field event who qualified for the medal event after throwing another national record of 81.81 has already overachieved and whatever he returns on Saturday night, he has already set a solid platform to inspire more of his countrymen to take up his sport.