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Cheruiyot, Saina clinch Olympics slots, Aprot handed wild card

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Betsy Saina (left) raises her arms in triumph after following Vivian Cheruiyot home to make the Kenya team for Beijing World Championship. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Betsy Saina (left) raises her arms in triumph after following Vivian Cheruiyot home to make the Kenya team for Beijing World Championship. PHOTO/FILE

ELDORET, Kenya, June 30 – World champion Vivian Cheruiyot produced a jaw-dropping performance to become the first athlete to automatically clinch a ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games as Trials got underway at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium on Thursday.

Running under the punishing high altitude conditions, Cheruiyot tore the deep women’s 10,000m, winning in a wide margin in 31:36.60; way ahead of USA based Besty Saina who clocked 32:04.66 to also book a ticket to Rio.

Alice Aprot, fresh from wining the African Championships crown was handed a wild card after attaining the qualifying standards in Durban last weekend where she clocked 31: 24.18.

As expected, Cheruiyot was in her own class, running under 31 minutes in home soil for the first time after managing to open a 10m gap with 13 laps to go, leaving birthday girl Saina and Irene Chepai battle for the second place.

“I’m so happy because this is my first time to run under 32 minutes in Kenyan soil. I’m looking forward for the competition in Rio where I know it’s going to competitive,” Cheruiyot fondly known as ‘rocket pocket’ said after the race.

“I’m going to prepare for Rio because we still have time to train, everybody is in good shape and as I usually say may the best athlete win. The three of us make a strong team, Aprot ran a good time in African Championships and we will train together, hopefully be fit before the Olympics,” the reigning world 10,000m champion affirmed.

Saina, who is celebrating her 29th birthday, said it was the perfect gift she could reward herself after leading the opening five laps before Vivian stole the show.

“My race was perfect; it went as I had planned because my goal was to make it to the team. Before the race I told Vivian we make the race faster since I don’t have the finishing power and that’s why I kept going in front and back,” Saina stated.

The opening day will also witness the clash of titans in the men’s 3000m steeplechase semi-final where four time back-to-back champion Ezekiel Kemboi will face stiff competition from this season’s world leader Conseslus Kipruto.

Other races will see Asbel Kiprop compete in the men’s 1500m semis, world record holder David Rudisha in the men’s 800m semi before the men’s 5000m final close Day 1.

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