NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 23 – Kenya might just have the surprise factor as it prepares to defend its global title in August during the IAAF World Athletics Championships with several new faces picking qualification slots for the biennial event.
Two finals were held on Friday, the first of the two-day event most often christened as a ‘mini-world championship’ owing to the competitive nature.
Cyrus Rutto topped the day picking a ticket to London in the 5,000m in a tightly competitive race marred by tripping and falling in the final lap, an incident that saw third place finisher Geoffrey Koech disqualified.
In a sprint finish, Rutto who lamented being denied a chance into the Rio Olympics team outsprinted David Kiplagat at the home stretch, crossing the finish line in a time of 13:31.5.
The 20-year-old told Capital Sport he was motivated to make the team after the Rio miss where he was pushed aside despite finishing third in Eldoret.
“Last year, I qualified for the Olympic but I ended up not making the team over unclear reasons. This time, I was motivated to work hard and finish first and ensure I get the ticket. I am so pleased because it has been my dream to represent the country at such a big stage,” Rutto added.
The entire group of close to 20 starters stuck together for most part of the 12-and-a-half laps but it was not until the final three that the wheat began to separate from the chaff.
At the bell, Kimutai who ended up disqualified and Alfred Ng’eno stuck out a shoulder ahead of the rest and began to open up, but heading into the first bend, a huge commotion occurred with three athletes in the leading pack falling off pace.
Rutto stuck out at the home stretch and kicked home despite a surge from Kiplagat who came in second with a time of 13:31.7.
Josephat Kiprono who finished fourth might sneak into the team courtesy of Koech’s disqualification.
Rutto and Kiplagat have now put within their ambitions to sharpen their spikes with the neck of reigning World and Olympic champion Mo Farah top on their agenda.
“I ran alongside Farah in a Diamond League race last year and he beat me. This time, I want to go back up against him and revenge for that loss. It will be tough with the Ethiopians also there, but we will go and do our best,” Rutto noted.
And noting that he trains in the elite group that includes reigning Olympic champion and anchored by celebrated long distance athletics coach Patrick Sang, Rutto is more than confident of having the best of preparations ahead of the trip to London.
-Tirop, Jeptai pick 10k tickets-
Meanwhile, the women’s 10,000m race will see two World Cross Country champions try to fill the massive shoes left by pocket-rocket Vivian Cheruiyot who has shifted to road running.
Reigning champion Irene Cheptai who blitzed the field to win in Kampala on March 26 and her predecessor Agnes Tirop all booked slots in the 10,000m as so did reigning African 10,000m champion Alice Aprot.
Training partners Cheptai and Tirop ran side by side in the race that attracted eight athletes before Tirop bolted away in the final 50m to win in a personal best time of 31:56.0.
Aprot had led through a huge chunk of the race but was shaken away by the two cross country queens with three laps left.
“This is the first time that I am going to represent Kenya on the track as a senior and I am really excited. Looking that I came out first in a very competitive field, I am proud of my performance today. Hopefully, going into London, I get a medal,” the soft spoken 21-year old said.
She has won bronze twice at World Junior level in the 5,000m in 2012 and 2014.
Cheptai who was seventh during the Beijing World Championships in 2015 will have a chance of proving her worth on the track having won the cross country title in Kampala.
USA based athlete Betsy Saina did not appear for the trials as she is ruled out with injury.