NAIROBI, August 28- Reigning champion, Asbel Kiprop, deployed measured running to book his place in Sunday’s men 1500m final at the Beijing World Championships, pulling compatriot and 2011 medallist, Silas Kiplagat who finished third with him.
Debutant Elijah Mangangoi beat Olympics champion, Taoufik Makhloufi in the much faster second semi, landing on the finish in three minutes and 35 seconds dead with the fourth Kenyan, teenager Timothy Cheruiyot, holding on to the fifth and last automatic qualification slot.
Kiprop is bidding for history as the first Kenyan to three-peat at the Worlds and on the evidence of the rounds, it will take something monumental to stop him from holding onto the crown he won in Daegu, South Korea and defended it in Moscow two years ago.
“It was a great race. It’s my tactics here to make it to the final. It was all about securing a spot there. I’m the world leader but in the final, everybody is a potential medal winner.
“This was a good and fast last lap. I try to learn many tactics- you need to be ready anywhere. I’m looking for many Kenyans in the final, we are a team and we will work together,” the 2008 Olympics champion and twice African titleholder said at the bowels of Beijing National Stadium.
Just like the heats, the heavy favourite started at the back but this time, he took no chances and took charge of the race in the second lap to complete a comfortable three minutes, 43.48 seconds victory.
Fast-finishing New Zealander, Nick Willis charged from the outside to take second place in 3:48.57 ahead of 2010 Commonwealth champion, Kiplagat, who had held the inside lane to finish third in 4:43.64.
“In the semifinals, I expected a tactical race like this but I was glad for the faster run and I liked it. I’m aware of the silly mistakes I have been doing especially in slow races.
“I work on that. It’s all about the calculation, timing and kicking, so it’s my main objective now,” KIplagat who bombed for sixth in Moscow two years ago underscored.
American pair, Matt Centrowitz (3:43.97) and Leonel Manzano (3:44.28) followed each other home in fourth and fifth to nail the remaining finals places in that heat.
Manangoi continued to enhance his reputation as one to watch out for after towing the field from the onset as Makhloufi hang on his shoulder as they motored around the three and a half-laps at the Bird’s Nest.
Behind them, the rest of the challengers were struggling to hold on to qualifying positions in the duel where it was apparent the two fastest losers would be produced.
Makhloufi who soared to the Olympics title in London where the Kenyan challenge fell flat, with injured Kiprop only good for the wooden spoon and Kiplagat, who took silver behind him in Daegu suffering a devastating loss of form, took second in 3:35.05.
“Coming from the heats, this race was much harder. Again, very tactical. I did not realise there was someone pushing one lap to go. I was confident and I do not have any problem with running from the front.
“Of course, I was co-operating with Timothy but I was just seeing Makhloufi by my side which pushed me forward,” Manangoi told reporters after the race.
“I’m delighted to be in the final. Yesterday (THursday), I did not feel well. My body was not ready but today I was in good shape. Inshallah, I shall do something in the final. I have already won the biggest title in the world in London 2012,” the Olympics titleholder added.
Behind them, Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider (3:35.20), Britain’s Charlie Grice (3:35.58) and 19 year-old first timer, Cheruiyot (3:35.74) rounded the top five for automatic entry.
A third American, Robby Andrews (3:35.88) will be in the finals after taking sixth a place above Aman Wote (3:35.97) who sew up the finalists as the fastest losers on the day.