Athletics Athletics

Jelimo fancies a Diamond cut


BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 7- The 2012 Samsung Diamond League draws to a close Friday night with the battle between Olympic champions Pamela Jelimo and Mariya Saminova in the women 800m among the meet highlights in Brussels.

An intriguing battle to the finish is on the cards with Jelimo, the Olympic winner in Beijing, arriving in control of her own destiny as the series leader with 12 points, five ahead of Russian Savinova who toppled her in London.

To lift the Diamond Trophy, Savinova will have to not only win outright, but will need Jelimo to finish no better than third.

The two have split their four meetings this year, as well as their last two since the Olympics, with Jelimo winning in Lausanne and Savinova in Birmingham.

Nobody in the field is quite in their league this season but the year’s breakout talent Francine Niyonsaba (1:58.67 SB, PB) of Burundi is closest to a potential spoiler.

A similar scenario is at work in the men’s 1500m where former Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop arrives with 14 points, five ahead of Ethiopian Mekonnen Gebremedhin who seems to have the better momentum at the moment.

Kiprop will race for the first time since injury forced his to jog home in last place in the London final while Gebremedhin has impressed since, finishing second in Lausanne and winning in Birmingham.

Then again, the pair can be upstaged just as they were in London by the Olympic medallists, all three of which will be in Brussels led by surprise winner Taoufik Makhloufi (3:30.80 SB, PB) of Algeria, who arrives on the heels of a solid victory in Zagreb on Tuesday.

Silver medallist Leo Manzano of USA and Moroccan Abdelaati Iguider who took bronze are in the mix but the man of the moment Makhloufi wants a fast race, too, and has requested 1:52/2:49 splits through 800 and 1200 metres.

To the distances, one event has already been locked up and another is entirely up for grabs.

Paul Kipsiele Koech’s prolific racing habit may not have landed him a spot on Kenya’s Olympic team, but it has given the 30-year-old veteran an unbeatable lead in pursuit of the Diamond Race Trophy which he has come to Brussels to claim.

Koech (7:54.31 SB, PB) has won five of his seven races with his sole bad outing coming at the Kenyan trials where he was a distant seventh.

He’s the World leader at 7:54.31 from Rome, has run three of the year’s four fastest times and collected 17 points in the Diamond Race, 9 ahead of the closest challenger, Jairus Kipchoge Birech (8:03.43 SB, PB), who is also in the race. Koech hasn’t mentioned a World record assault, but is targeting a performance in the 7:55 range.

Also in the field are Kenyans Abel Mutai (8:01.67 SB, PB) and Brimin Kipruto (8:01.73 SB, PB), third and fifth respectively at the Olympics along with quick teenager Conselus Kipruto (8:03.49 SB, PB).

In the women’s 5000m, Mercy Cherono arrives as the standings leader with 12 points, 2 ahead of her compatriot and double world champion Vivian Cheruiyot, but it will be the latter, this year’s Olympic silver medallist in the event and bronze medallist at 10,000m, who’ll start as favourite to lift a third consecutive Diamond Trophy in the event.

Cheruiyot is the world leader at 14:35.62, but perhaps more importantly, has beaten Cherono eight out of nine career meetings.

A stronger challenge for the victory here, if not the overall title, will be Sally Kipyego, the Olympic 10,000m silver medallist and fourth place finisher in the 5000m.

The field also includes Ethiopian Gelete Burka (14:41.43 SB) and Kenyan Sylvia Kibet (14:46.73 SB), currently third in the standings with 5 points. Laps of 69 seconds have been requested of the pacesetters.

Finally, a Brussels institution is the men’s 10,000m. This year’s race, according to the Meeting Director Wilfried Meert, is a look at the future of the event. Kenyans Isaiah Koech and Geoffrey Kirui will be the focus of attention as the pair, both juniors at 18 and 19, respectively, will be gunning for the 26:41.75 World junior record set by Sammy Wanjiru in Brussels in 2005.