NAIROBI, Kenya, May 30- The lanky legs of World champion, Asbel Kiprop, who has been in scintillating form this season and is yet to taste defeat, will be stretched to their limits in the signature Bowerman Mile at the Pre Fontaine Classic, the third 2014 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday.
Having blasted to the world leading 3:29.18 victory over 1500m at the opening leg in Doha on May 9, Kiprop, 24, anchored the Kenya team to the 4x1500m world record of 14:22.22 at the IAAF World Relays in Bahamas with a blistering 3:32 closing leg.
He has broken 3:50 in the mile five times in Eugene and last won the Pre Classic in 2012, an honour he keen to reclaim on Saturday.
“It would be nice to go to Eugene and win the Bowerman Mile again. In 2012 I did it over Bernard Lagat in front of one of the best crowds in athletics in Eugene. I felt great and I want that again,” two-time World Champion, Kiprop said in Nairobi before leaving for Bahamas for the World Relays having won the Pre Classic show-stopper in 3:49.40 in 2012.
Compatriot, chief domestic rival and Commonwealth titleholder, Silas Kiplagat beat Kiprop by 0.05 seconds to win the Bowerman Mile last year and having also uncorked a 3:32 in the penultimate leg to lead Kenya to the World Relays record, the pair will stand on opposing sides in their internal battle for supremacy.
World Indoors champion Ayanieh Souleiman of Djibouti, Ethiopian 1500m record-holder Aman Wote, 2012 world indoor bronze medallist Mekonnen Gebremedhin, world bronze medallist Johan Cronje, two-time world silver medallist Matthew Centrowitz and European champion Henrik Ingebrigtsen complete the loaded Mile line-up for Eugene.
Obiri, Chepng’etich with all to do
World Indoors 3000m silver medallist, Hellen Obiri, steps down to the distance she won bronze at the Moscow Worlds last summer to take on imposing competition on the back of two record breaking runs.
She got off to a storming start at Doha where she set an African, Diamond League and meet record by running the fifth fastest mark of all time in winning the 3000m race in 8:20.68.
After returning home to notch the 800m and 1500m double at the Kenya Defence Forces Championships, Obiri, the Pre Fontaine Classic defending champion, travelled to Bahamas and anchored the 4x1500m to shave a massive 32 seconds off their own world record in striking gold in 16:53.88.
“Defending my title in Oregon is my aim although it will not be easy as last year since this time, they have very tough athletes,” she stated ahead of her departure to Bahamas having set an American all comers’ record of 3:58.58 in winning the Pre Classic last year.
Compatriot and world junior titleholder, Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon, who was in the Kenyan quartet that starred in Nassau last weekend brings a 3:56.98 career best national record to the mix as she seeks her first major scalp on the track as a senior having won the senior women 8km title at the Africa Cross Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda earlier this year.
The Kenyans are not the rank favourites, leading the way will be 23-year-old Swede Abeba Aregawi, the world champion indoors and out. Aregawi won the 2013 Diamond Trophy and her personal best of 3:56.54 is the fastest in the field.
World 800m champion Eunice Sum and 2008 Olympic 1500m champion Nancy Langat are Kenya’s other entrants, while the US fans will have plenty to cheer in the presence of 2011 world champion Jenny Simpson, world 800m bronze medallist Brenda Martinez, and five-time national champion Treniere Moser.
Youth vs talent
The fastest in the group is world silver medallist Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia, who ran a world junior record of 12:47.53 last year.
He will be challenged by world junior champion Muktar Edris, world bronze medallist Isiah Koech, and Albert Rop of Bahrain, whose 12:51.96 ranks behind only Gebrhiwet and Koech on the world all-time junior list.
Yenew Alamirew took the Diamond Race lead with his 5000m victory in Shanghai and will look to add to his points total here.
The older class is led by USA’s 39-year-old Bernard Lagat, who is seeking his first 5000m win at the Pre Classic, and defending Pre Classic champion Edwin Soi.
The meet is of course headlined by the return of a certain 25 year-old David Rudisha, the men 800m record holder and Olympics champion who is returning after a year out with a knee injury suffered ahead of the Pre Classic last year.
The Kenyan, who missed most of the 2013 season and the Diamond League season opener in Doha with a calf strain, will be making his Prefontaine Classic debut and is looking to confirm his fitness against a loaded field.
He will be up against Ethiopia’s Mohammed Aman, who won gold in Rudisha’s absence at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Botswana’s Nijel Amos, the 2012 Olympic silver medallist and world junior record-holder at 1:41.73, Abubaker Kaki of Sudan, who has beaten Rudisha five times in 13 meetings, world leader Duane Solomon, who could be looking to challenge the US record of 1:42.60, and two-time European indoor champion Adam Kszczot.
The 800m is the penultimate event on the programme and will be followed by the meeting’s signature event, the Bowerman Mile.