JOHANNESBURG, May 26- Kenyan titans, record holder David Rudisha and two-time world champion Asbel Kiprop will step down the distance when they line up for Tuesday’s Ostrava Golden Spike — an IAAF World Challenge signature meeting in the Czech Republic.
After two early-season races in Australia, Olympic champion Rudisha will open his European campaign over 600m in a season he is bidding to reclaim the world title in Beijing having missed out the last edition of the biennial showpiece in Moscow.
The Kenyan world record holder sits fourth on the all-time list over this distance, having run 1:13.71 last year in Birmingham and he may be eyeing the world best of 1:12.81, set by the USA’s Johnny Gray in 1986, and Joseph Mutua’s Kenyan record of 1:13.49.
After an underwhelming season last year where he was beaten to Commonwealth silver by Botswana’s Nijel Amos, Rudisha, 26, is out to prove he is the man to beat ahead of the Worlds as he works his way back to the top following a year out with a serious knee injury.
Ostrava is among his carefully selected races in Europe ahead of the Kenyan Trials as the 1:40.91 record holder in 800m paces himself gradually up the ladder.
He opened his season with victory at the Sydney Track Classic on March 14 where the clock stopped at 1:45.01 before slightly improving at the Melbourne Track Challenge a week later to test his form.
“I wanted to use those races to know where I’m at before the beginning of the international circuit track season so that I can have an idea of what to do in training,” Rudisha, the two-time African champion (2008 and 10), earlier said of his Australian outing.
World 1 500m champion Kiprop will contest the 1 000m for the first time in his illustrious career and considering his pedigree at the 800m and 1 500m, the meeting record of 2:15.08, set by Turkey’s Ilham Tanui Ozbilen, a naturalised Kenyan, could well be attainable.
French 800m record-holder Pierre-Ambroise Bosse and European indoor 1 500m champion Jakub Holusa will be looking to stop the Kenyan charge.
Kiprop gave an indication he is nearing the peak of his form when he uncorked a 3:36.9 stadium record during the heats of the final Athletics Kenya Track and Field Series meeting, a performance scientists have equated to 3:28 at sea level.
Having pulled out of the IAAF Bahamas World Relays earlier this month citing a hamstring strain, Kiprop opened his European season with 1:45.11 for fifth over 800m at the season premiering IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha on May 15.
Elsewhere, former World Cross Country Champion Japheth Korir will challenge the might of Ethiopian favourite and Olympic silver medallist Dejen Gebremeskel in the men’s 5 000m in what will be the latter’s first outing of the season.
Korir, who did not make his country’s team to defend his crown at the Guiyang World Cross, improved his 10km best of 27:47 on April 27 and could be set to break new ground over 5 000m as he eyes a place in the country’s 10 000m team for the Worlds.