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Hard choices for AK on 800m Worlds team

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David Rudisha in action in a past 800m race this season Photo/ (AFP / Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 24- Athletics Kenya (AK) are faced with a tough situation to drop either reigning World Champion and World Record holder David Rudisha or 2016 Diamond League winner Ferguson Rotich from the 800m team to the IAAF World Championships in London in August.

AK named an 800m team of five for the London Championships while they are only allowed a maximum of four and rumors have been rife this week that US-based athlete Michael Saruni who finished third in the trials has been axed.

“We are looking at it and we will make an announcement soon. Please be patient,” Athletics Kenya vice president in charge of competitions Paul Mutwii told Capital Sport in a brief response.

Another US-based athlete, Michael Korir won the national trials with World Junior Champion Kipyegon Bett finishing second ahead of Saruni. While Rudisha did not race in the trials as he was already sure of a wild card, Ferguson raced and finished fourth.

According to IAAF Rules as approved by the IAAF Council in March and November 2016 ahead of the London World Championships;

“The IAAF will accept the participation of the current Reigning World Outdoor Champion and that of the Winner of the 2016 IAAF Diamond League (in the corresponding World Championships event) and Hammer Throw Challenge, as Wild Cards, in each individual event, on the condition that the athlete in question is entered by his Federation,”

“If both are from the same country, only one of the two can be entered with this Wild Card. If a Member Federation has four athletes in one event as a result of this regulation, all four will be permitted to compete.”

In this situation, AK has to choose between Rudisha and Rotich with the first three across the line from the trials remaining.

Fergusson Rotich shows his ecstacy after winning the 800m semi-final race during the Kenyan trials for the World Athletics Championship at the Nyayo National Stadium on June 23, 2017. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

According to Team Kenya coach Bernard Ouma, Saruni had not been dropped from the team.

“No one has been dropped from the team. The thing is Saruni left the camp last week on Thursday probably because of the rumours flying around. We have written to him and told him that he is still in the team and now it is upon him to return,” Ouma said.

Earlier, there was a suggestion of dropping one of the athletes to the 400m with the qualification window still open until midnight on July 31.

Rotich finished fourth in the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, China, coming just five fractions of a second to the bronze medal. In the Rio Olympics last year, he also finished outside the medal brackets.

His only medals for Team Kenya have come in the World Relays, anchoring 4x800m team to Gold in the 2014 showpiece while he was part of the team that won silver this year.

Korir and Saruni who have been under the tutelage of renowned Kenyan retired athlete turned coach Paul Ereng in the United States will be donning the Kenyan jersey for the first time while youngster Bett will be making his first senior appearance at the world stage.

Emmanuel Korir lifts his hands in celebration after winning the 800m race during the Kenyan trials at the Nyayo Stadium on June 24, 2017. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

During the Monaco leg of the Diamond League, Korir showed what he can do by running a World Lead in the non-Diamond 800m race, finishing in a time of 1:43.10. This was also his outdoor personal best in the two-lap race.

Reigning World and Olympic Champion Rudisha has not been as active this year and his only win has come through in the Székesfehérvár Gyulai István Memorial in Hungary at the beginning of this month where he ran 1:44.90.

He also competed in the Shanghai leg of the Diamond League, finishing fourth in a time of 1:45.36 in a race won by Bett while Rotich finished third. He finished second in the Kingston Racers Grand Prix in Jamaica, setting a season’s best time of 1:44.90.

He also competed in the 1,000m race at the Ostrava Golden Spike late June clocking 2:19.43 and finishing fourth.

Meanwhile, Coach Ouma has disclosed to Capital Sport that two more athletes have been included into the team for London having attained qualification marks.

Boniface Mweresa takes off from the blocks at the National Championships in Nairobi. He was part of the winning 4x400m Relay team at the African Games. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Boniface Mweresa, the 2015 African silver medalist has been included in the 400m team after attaining the qualification mark, running 45.52 during the Ugandan World Championships trials, well into the qualification 45.50 threshold.

Harun Koech who is a sibling to reigning 400m hurdles World Champion Nicholas Bett has also been included in the team after clocking 49.29 in a race in Italy, coming within the 49.35 qualification mark.

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