NAIROBI, August 26 – Kenya’s quest of finally grounding British champion, Mo Farah, in the men 5000m final will fall on the legs of Commonwealth title holder, Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku, 2008 Olympics bronze medallist, Edwin Soi and Moscow third finisher Isaiah Koech after they progressed to Saturday’s final.
First timer Emmanuel Kipsang failed to make the cut after bowing out in the first heat where he finished eighth in 13:46.43 in the slowest qualifier, where Soi crossed the line third to automatically qualify in 13:45.28.
Mwangangi, who has had a bumpy season after struggling with injury, ran his season best of 13:19.58 to finish fourth in the fastest heat that benefited Koech who advanced as one of the five fastest losers in 13:23.5.
Champion Farah finished second in 13:19.44 behind winner and another favourite, Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha who clocked 13:19.38 whilst Canadian, Mohammed Ahmed came third in 13:19.58.
Mwangangi, Soi and Koech will hope to take the cue from compatriots Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor, Paul Tanui and Bedan Karoki who took the fight to Farah on Sunday but lost out on the top medal over the last lap.
Kenya is hoping to produce a first winner in the 12 and a-half lap race since Benjamin Limo, who now represents athletes at IAAF, came up with the goods in the 2005 edition in Helsinki, Finland.
Mwangangi who collected five titles last year, the World Indoor, Commonwealth, African, World Cup and IAAF Diamond League is the favourite to offer Farah his stiffest test from Kenya alongside besides Kejelcha, the former World Youth champion, who has exploded this season.
In the first heat, Malawi’s inexperienced Stuart Band, his country’s only representative at these championships and having his first ever international race, almost immediately shot into the lead and the rest of the field let him go as he opened up a 25-metre gap.
However, on the fifth lap, the audacious Banda started to tire and was quickly swallowed up by the rest of the field.
It was then the turn of Rwanda’s Felicien Muhtitira to show at the front and push the pace for several laps and just like Banda, he too gradually slipped back over the course of the next few laps.
With 4km reached in 11:13.16, Kipsang took the fore as he had been with three laps to go, there were still effectively 16 men in contention for the five automatic qualifying spots.
But the pace increased with 600 metres to go as Great Britain’s Tom Farrell stepped up a gear, which had an immediate impact and shook off several men.
The bell was reached in 12:48.15 but as the leaders swung around the final bend there were still eight men in contention, which provoked a frantic sprint over the final 150 metres.
Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet showed off the speed that took him past four men in the closing stages of the 2013 World Championships 5000m final and to the silver medal behind Farah, by hitting the front coming into the home straight and he was never headed, crossing the line in 13:45.00.
Behind him USA’s Ben True finished second ahead of Soi in 13:45.09, Farrell was fourth in 13:45.29 while Ethiopia’s Imane Merga rounded off the automatic slot in 13:45.41.
The runners in the second of the two heats knew, after the relatively modest times posted just a few minutes before, that they had a good chance of being among the five fastest non-automatic qualifiers that would progress to the final if they didn’t make the top five, so they started at a much faster tempo.
The first three kilometre splits read: 2:41.57, 5:24.50, 8:04.95 – the latter time more than 30 seconds faster that the first heat – with USA’s Galen Rupp and Australia’s Collis Birmingham doing most of the work after the first 600 metres, when the field were sorting themselves out.
The pace didn’t slacken off, which meant the majority of the non-automatic qualifiers were almost certainly going to come from this heat, and there were still 14 men in contention at the bell.
The packed group at the front meant that contact was almost inevitable as the runners started to go through their gears and this occurred with 180 metres to go as Ethiopian prodigy Yomif darted to the front to get in a good position coming into the home straight.
The teenager got a sharp push from Ahmed, and the Ethiopian in turn nudged Mo Farah on the inside who, for a few agonising strides, stumbled and looked as though he was about to tumble.
However, Great Britain’s 10,000m winner managed to stay on his feet and quickly regained his composure and upright posture.
Down the home straight there were 10 men sprinting for the top five automatic qualification places but most of the others must have done the maths and realised that they were also as good as through.
In the end, Kejelcha took the plaudits in 13:19.38 with Farah second just 0.06 behind.
Ahmed was initially third across the line. He was then disqualified, but later reinstated. Kenya’s 2014 Diamond Race winner Ndiku and Bahrain’s Albert Rop took fourth and fifth place.
As expected from the early stages of the race, all five non-automatic qualifiers came from the second race, including Rupp and Turkey’s European indoor 3000m champion Ali Kaya, as well as Kenya’s 2013 world 5000m bronze medallist Isiah Koech, although the latter looked a shadow of the runner who was in Moscow.
Among the well-known names to miss out on the final were Kipsang, Canada’s Cameron Levins and Spain’s former European cross country champion and sub-13 man Alemayehu Bezabeh in the first heat; Birmingham, Azerbaijan’s Hayle Ibrahimov and Spain’s former European champion Jesus Espana in the second race.
-Material from IAAF used to compile this report