NAIROBI, Kenya, April 26- World champions, Asbel Kiprop and Eunice Sum fulfilled their favourite roles to perfection to book their berths in the 23-strong Kenyan team for the inaugural IAAF World Relays in Bahamas.
The meet was headlined by the new world record* in the women 4X1500m ran by Moscow Worlds silver winner, Mercy Cherono, World Indoors finalist, Irene Jelagat, Ann Karindi and Perine Nenkampi who breezed to 17:05.8 to shatter the previous standard of 17:08.34 run at the University of Tennessee in the US.
AK vice-president in charge of competitions and administration, David Okeyo, confirmed they would apply for the record to be recognised by world body IAAF since all requirements for consideration including electronic timing, doping control and wind measurement were in place.
The quartet bettered the 17:08.17 ran by Sum, Karindi, World Indoor silver winner, Helen Obiri and Margaret Chelimo on April 5 during the last Safaricom Relay Series meet at the Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani but the mark was not recognised as a world record since hand timing was used.
Kiprop and Sum took their places with convincing wins in their individual time trials before anchoring their men 4X1500m and women 4X800m teams to victory as the Safaricom Relay Series Final Bahamas selection showdown concluded in Nairobi on Saturday.
AK went against expectations in deciding not to enter athletes in the 4X100m, 4X200m and especially the 4X400m with federation vice-president in charge of competitions and Meet Director, David Okeyo, saying, “They did not get the qualifying times.”
Hopes that the stellar cast on show would attack and mow down the 4X1500m and 4X800m world records on the day saw electronic timing and doping control in place but were dashed when the athletes did individual time trials before returning for the relays in the afternoon session.
Kiprop eyes Bahamas glory
He came in as the biggest name on show and with measured pace, never exerting himself at any point of the race he led from the gun, two-time world champion, Asbel Kiprop, duly delivered, taking his men 1500m time trial in 3:36.55 to lead the qualifiers to Bahamas.
The Beijing Olympics gold medallist then teamed up with bridesmaid and Commonwealth champion, Silas Kiplagat (3:36.68), Collins Cheboi (3:36.74) and Joseph Magut (3:36.85) who sealed the top four to uncork victory in the men 4X1500m in 14:44.77.
“This is a good start to the season from me. My team mates and I can deliver both the gold and world record in Bahamas if we work as a team and get our tactics right.
“I would be delighted to win another gold medal for my country since competing for my nation at every opportunity is my motivation,” the lanky Kiprop asserted.
Olympics and Worlds finalist, Nixon Chepseba and Hillary Maiyo who finished sixth and fifth in the time trial join the quartet in the men 4X1500m squad via the outside selection rule.
World Youth titleholder, Alfred Kipketer, enhanced his reputation further by crushing the field in the men 800m individual selection race, crossing the line in 1:44.2 to lead the charge to Bahamas.
Job Kinyor, a son of former Boston Marathon titleholder, Salina Kosgei and retired 400m Hurdler and 1994 Commonwealth Games bronze winner, Barnabas Kinyor, lived up to family pedigree by leading the challengers home in 1:44.6 as third placed Ferguson Rotich, a Moscow Worlds competitor (1:44.9) and Sammy Kirongo (1:45.3) sealed the automatic tickets.
“Last year was the firt time out of the country when we went for the World Youth and I cannot believe it I will go for my first event outside as a senior. The aim is to go there and win and if the world record comes, it would be a dream come true,” the slightly dazed Kipketer said.
Fifth finisher, Nicholas Kiplagat (1:45.7) got the wildcard nod with Olympics bronze winner, Anthony Chemut, who was sixth (1:46.0) missing out on the Bahamas party.
Sum leads mentor Jepkosgei
At the finish, a beaming Eunice Sum, who stunned the world in Moscow with a maiden world title, waited for her mentor and Osaka 2007 winner, Janeth Jepkosgei, to cross the line before the pair embraced warmly as they achieved their target to represent their nation in Bahamas.
“What makes this special is that I shall be in the same team with my mother in athletics as we try our best to bring glory to our country. We train together and now we shall do something great for our nation,” Sum who outlasted her idol over the last 300m to romp home victorious in 2:03.2 against 2:03.9.
“It is a wonderful feeling to run with my daughter. Last year, I knew she could win the world title and now we will be going for another world title together. I’m grateful for having a long career and after the disappointing London 2012 Olympics and missing out on Moscow, this is a huge relief,” the equally glowing 2008 Olympics silver winner Jepkosgei said.
Behind them, Kenya Prisons runner, Sylvia Chesebe (2:04.8) and former World Youth winner, Cherono Koech (2:05.2) sealed the remaining slots with selectors adding Agatha Jeruto and Miriam Chepkemoi to the list.
The top four teamed up to bag the honours in the 4X800m relay in 8:23.13.
In the women 1500m showdown, Moscow silver medallist, Mercy Cherono deployed the afterburners after the bell to outclass World Indoors finalist, Irene Jelagat at the homestretch to carry the day in 4:11.49 against 4:12.27.
“After my silver in Moscow, winning gold in Bahamas will be the best way to get my year going since nothing makes me happier than running for Kenya,” the former World Junior titleholder enthused.
Together with Ann Karindi (4:15.35) and Perrine Nenkampi (4:15.67) who followed home in third and fourth, the leading pair prevailed in the women 4X1500m event in 17:05.72 to round off a fulfilling day.
Two-time World Cross junior champion and national women 1,500m record holder, Faith Chepng’etich was given a wildcard for Bahamas without competing and Sheila Chepng’etich earned the wildcards in the World Relays squad.
The team will report to camp on May 1 ahead of their departure for the May 24 and 25 relay showpiece on May 18.
*Pending IAAF ratification
KENYA BAHAMAS TEAM
4X800m MEN: Alfred Kipketer, Job Kinyor, Ferguson Rotich, Sammy Kirongo, Nicholas Kiplagat
4X800m WOMEN: Eunice Sum, Janeth Jepkosgei, Sylvia Chesebe, Cherono Koech, Agatha Jeruto, Miriam Chepkemoi
4X1500m MEN: Asbel Kiprop, Silas Kiplagat, Collins Cheboi, Joseph Magut, Hillary Maiyo, Nixon Chepseba
4X1500m WOMEN: Mercy Cherono, Irene Jelagat, Anne Karindi, Peris Nenkampi, Sheila Chepng’etich, Faith Chepng’etich (wildcard)
Coaches: Esther Koech, Elykanah Nyangau, Billy Kosgei
Physios: Caroline Kamau, Peter Nduhiu
Team leader: David Okeyo, AK Vice-President
Deputy team leader: Isaac Mwangi, AK CEO