RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, Aug 19- Triple world champion and 2008 Olympic champion over 1500m Asbel Kiprop showed a glimpse of what to expect in the early Sunday morning final at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro when he galloped to win his semi-final in a time of 3:39:73 ahead of reigning champion Algerian Taofik Makhloufi.
Another Kenyan, World Junior record holder and commonwealth silver medalist Ronald Kwemoi also won his semi-final in 3:39:42 to progress to a final that promises to spark fireworks.
Kenya might have had three men in the semis, but world championship silver medalist Elijah Manang’oi pulled out Thursday afternoon with injury.
The two men, Kiprop and Kwemoi showed different tact enroute to the final, with Kiprop running at the back of the pack before bolting off at the bell, to stride past a healthy field of athletes and pick the automatic qualifying slot.
Kiprop started to gallop into the front at the bell with the reigning Champion Makhloufi pulling up the pace, fresh from winning silver in the 800m.
At the back straight, Kiprop who has had a superb season, coming close to lowering the world record twice, showed just a small piece of his class, using his long strides to gallop into a good lead, relaxing off at the sight of the finish line to sail through.
Kiprop is seen as the outright favorite for the gold on Sunday, having lost only one of the eight races he has run this season, a disappointing sixth spot finish at the Monaco Diamond League.
He clocked a world-leading 3:29.33 when winning at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham two months ago and won in Doha as well as over a mile in Eugene and Oslo.
Japan-based Kwemoi who was third in the Kenyan trials behind Kiprop and Manang’oi also showed some good finishing power to win the second semi, wading off the challenge of 2014 World Indoor Champion Ayanleh Souleiman from Djibouti.
Kwemoi chose to run a different race from Kiprop, sticking to the front of the pack from gun to tape. It was a faster race compared to the first semi, the athletes clearing the first 400m in 59.67.
At the bell, Souleiman bolted out of the rest of the pack to lead towards the home straight with Kwemoi dangerously tucked in between the chasing pack.
But the Kenyan managed to side step into the outside lane to sprint home past the Djiboutian and claim his place among the greats in the final.
Kiprop will hope to banish the ghosts of the 2012 Olympics in London where he finished bottom of the pile in the final despite coming into the championship with the world leading time, while Kwemoi, in his first Olympics will hope to announce his arrival in style.