NAIROBI, Kenya, June 29 – World champion Vivian Cheruiyot will headline a nail-biting contest as the star-studded Olympics Trials gets underway on Thursday with the women’s 10,000m final at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret.
Another final in Day One will see the men’s 5000m battle for slots where world silver medallist Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku will take on world half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor, who intends to compete in the 10,000m.
As is tradition at any Kenyan Trials, reputations will be sustained, others made and the mighty will fall especially in the distance races where all attention will be focused in an event termed as ‘mini Olympics’.
Cheruiyot, who is yet to win an Olympic gold medal will face a deep field of world class athletes that include All Africa Games champion Alice Aprot as well as USA based duo of 2012 Olympic silver medallist Sally Kipyego and Besty Saina.
Also in the fray are world half marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir, bronze winner Mary Wacera, 2009 Berlin world champion Linet Masai and Joyce Chepkurui.
Fresh from being crowned Africa champion in Durban, South Africa, Aprot is expected to be the biggest threat as she is on form this season winning all the races she has competed.
But having won bronze behind Kipyego and gold medallist Tirunesh Dibaba at the 2012 London Olympics, Cheruiyot is more determined this time to add the most prestigious silverware in her cabinet.
The men’s 5000m will witness the renewal of rivalry between Kamworor and friend Bedan Karoki with the two having already represented the country well at the World Half Marathon Championships and World Cross Country Championships.
The two will face competition from Commonwealth Games champion Mwangangi, Beijing bronze medallist in 10,000m Paul Tanui, Isaiah Kiplagat Koech and Edwin Soi who won bronze at the 2008 Olympic Games.
Thomas Longosiwa, who is the sixth fasted man this season and Leonard Barsoton are also in the starting line-up in the race that will wind up the opening day.
Other eye catching races in Day One will see world record holder David Rudisha compete in the men’s 800m semi-final.
Rudisha, who is placed in the third semi-final, will be hoping the upset of the World Championships Trials where he was floored by Ferguson Rotich does not reoccur as he seeks to clinch the ticket that will give him a chance to defend his Olympics title that he won at London 2012 in a world record of 1:40.91.
Rudisha’s semi will feature Jackson Kivuva, Job Kinyor and Bernard Kipyego among others while on form Ferguson Rotich headlines semi-final 2 alongside Timothy Kitum.
Former world junior champion Alfred Kipketer leads semi-final 1 that has fast rising youngster Willy Tarbei, Leonard Kosencha and Boaz Kiprugut among others.
The men’s 1500m semi-finals will also be in action where three-time world champion Asbel Kiprop is expected to light up the stadium.
Kiprop, who is in a blazing form, will face a strong line-up that has world silver medallist Elijah Manangoi, Silas Kiplagat, Ronald Kwemoi, Timothy Cheruiyot, James Magut, Robert Kiptoo and Abednego Chesebe.
Most of the finals will be held on the final day where a showdown in the men’s 3000m steeplechase will be a cracker.
World leader Conseslus Kipruto will be looking to disappoint four-time back-to-back world champion Ezekiel Kemboi.
Also in contention are Brimin Kipruto, Jairus Birech, Paul Kipsiele Koech and Commonwealth champion Jonathan Ndiku.
The team to represent Kenya at the Rio Olympic Games will be named on Friday and will be expected to camp in Eldoret as the country seeks to better the London performance where they only won two gold medals courtesy of Kemboi and Rudisha.