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Monaco test for Kenyan Moscow hopefuls

ASBEL-KIPLAGAT-CHEPSEBANAIROBI, Kenya, July 18- With the country still reeling from the withdrawal of the ‘Pride of Africa’ David Rudisha from the Moscow World Championships, Friday’s Monaco leg of the IAAF Diamond League offers Kenyan medal hopefuls a platform to deliver a roaring statement of intent.

As their team mates continue trickling to Nairobi’s Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, for residential training, local fans will be keenly following developments at the Herculis meet in the French Principality to get a rough idea of whether their athletes are anywhere close to emulating the seven gold and 17 medals in total record performance in Daegu, South Korea, two years ago.

Members of the 49-strong Moscow national squad competing in Monaco had already cleared with Athletics Kenya (AK) well before Saturday’s National Trials and are expected to join their colleagues in camp by Monday.

Here are expected Kenyan highlights to look forward to in Monaco.

How fast will Kiprop run?

As the defending men 1500m champion, Kiprop delivered a tacit warning at the Kenyan National Championships in June he would seek to lower his 3:28.77 career best at the distance in Monaco.

“I cancelled running in Oslo (June 13) in order to prepare for Monaco. When I’m looking forward to trying and break my personal best. I went there and did 3:28 and it was exciting, I was happy to have run the fastest time since 2004,” he told Xinhua at the time.

Although he was coy about the prospects of putting together such an attack in Monaco after finishing second at the Moscow Trials, saying, “We shall see,” wistfully, the assembled field may compel him to bring out his best even though London Olympics team mates, Silas Kiplagat and Nixon Chepseba who will join him in Moscow and provide his stiffest internal competition are missing.

Britain’s double Olympics champion, Mo Farah is in the field and nothing would give him better motivation than to beat one of the poster boys of London where Kiprop’s dream to hold on to his title crushed despite the fact his star rival will be competing in his first 1500m race since 2008.

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The 2011 World bronze medallist Matthew Centrowitz and 2012 Olympic silver medallist Leo Manzano from the United States are also in the field seeking his scalp to give their own Russia medal prospects a boost, something the lanky Kenyan will be keen to avoid.

Bethwell Birgen, the fourth Kenyan in the Russia Worlds squad is another out to prove a point in Monaco.

How will the 800m hopefuls fare?

Without Rudisha, it is assumed that Kenya has all but surrendered the men 800m world crown.

However, the gaze will fall on newcomers to the Kenyan team in Ferguson Cheruiyot and Jeremiah Mutai to see whether they have the credentials to pose a podium challenge.

Mutai, 20, was the 2009 world Youth silver medallist in the 400 Hurdles, and he came home way down the order in seventh at the Ostrava Golden Spike last month while there is no information available on Cheruiyot who is 28 presenting the X-factor on his capabilities after finishing second to Anthony Chemut at the Kenya Trials.

Elsewhere, the men 5000m will give Olympics bronze winner, Thomas Longosiwa and his Kenyan team mates for Moscow, Isaiah Kiplangat and Edwin Soi a chance to spur against their expected rivals for gold in Russia, Bernard Lagat and Galen Rupp from the United States.

Women 3000m steeplechase frontrunner, Milcah Chemos who has won three Diamond League meetings on the bounce is seeking to continue her momentum in her speciality.

Having punched their Moscow tickets, World Indoor titleholder, Helen Obiri and Beijing 2008 gold winner, Nancy Jebet Langat, will have a taste of what to expect in Russia when they line-up for the start of the women 1500m race.

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Among those they will take on include former world champion, Maryam Yusuf Jamal (Bahrain) and American trio of Jenny Simpson, Gabriele Anderson and Shannon Rowbury with compatriot Viola Kibiwott who made the women 5000m squad also stepping down the distance to gain speed.

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