NAIROBI, Kenya, March 7- Commonwealth champion Silas Kiplagat’s habit of chocking at the big stage continued when he became the biggest casualty of the opening day of 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland on Friday.
Having finished sixth at the 2012 final in the men 1500m, Kiplagat paid for another poorly executed tactical race as he finished third in the second slower heat in 3:39.70 with Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman (3:38.94) and New Zealand Nick Willis (3:39.14).
Team mate, Bethwell Birgen, who has been in a rich vein of form this winter on the indoor circuit booked a place in Sunday’s final but only just, bagging his place as a fastest loser despite finishing fourth in the third and last heat in 3:38.56.
In what turned out to be the fastest preliminary of the day, Ethiopia’s Aman Wote (3:36.75), defending champion and Morocco’s Abdelaati Iguider (3:37.83) and American hopeful Will Leer (3:38.02) dipped ahead of the Kenyan.
Kenyan born Turk, İlham Tanui Özbilen (3:39.31) finished fifth to secure his place with German Homiyu Tesfaye (3:47.07) taking the honours in the first heat.
Former World Youth 400m Hurdles silver winner, Jeremiah Mutai also bowed out at the first hurdle as intense action got underway after being edged out of the race for the top two automatic finishers by home favourite, Adam 1:45.76 and Britain’s London Olympics finalist, Andrew Osagie (1:45.88) in the men two-lap race.
The World Indoors first time clocked 1:47.41 to lead the challengers’ home after running out of steam in the dash for the line.
Obiri, Jelagat through
Kenya’s prized athlete at the Sopot edition, defending champion, Helen Obiri, eased towards the finish to qualify easily for the women 3000m final in the event’s first round.
Obiri progressed as runner-up in the second heat, the Kenyan clocking 8:53.31 in the slipstream of two-time former 1500m world champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal, of Bahrain, who prevailed in 8:53.07 as she appeared to conserve her energies for the medal race.
Team mate and former World Junior gold medallist, Irene Jelagat, will join her in Sunday’s decider after squeezing to the final by the skin of her teeth as one of the fastest losers in the first scorching heat.
Jelagat led the runners through the opening 1000m in 3:07.52 before United Arab Emirate athlete, Alia Saeed Mohammed took over in the next 2000m passed through in 6:10.22.
The pretenders paved way for the overwhelming favourite and defending 1500m champion, Genzebe Dibaba, who stepped up the distance for Sopot as she underlined her world breaking form by arriving at the finish unchallenged in 8:57.86 having pulled clear with three laps to go.
“The race went very well,” Dibaba said. “I didn’t want to lead in the early laps, I only wanted to move up with five laps remaining and I executed my plan.
“I know I have a great time in this event and that gives me confidence… I don’t think I’ll have a hard time taking gold.”
Reigning men 3000m silver medallist, Augustine Kipchoge and Jonathan Muia Ndiku were to compete later Friday in their first round as well as Viola Kibiwott in the women 1500m.