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Bett, steeple trio carry Kenya’s golden hopes

Bett who is in his first ever senior appearance in a World Championship is the lone Kenyan in the final after both Emmanuel Korir and Ferguson Rotich failed to make the cut

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 8- The 3,000m steeplechase trio of defending champion Ezekiel Kemboi, Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto and two-time Diamond Trophy winner Jairus Birech as well as 800m sensation Kipyegon Bett carry Kenya’s hopes of more gold medals as the IAAF World Championships hit day five in London, United Kingdom on Tuesday.

With both gold medals, Kenya will potentially leap to the top of the medal standings where they are second behind the United States after Faith Kipyegon’s 1500m gold medal on Monday night.

Bett who is in his first ever senior appearance in a World Championship is the lone Kenyan in the final after both Emmanuel Korir and Ferguson Rotich failed to make the cut. He is expected to give a fight in defending the crown won by David Rudisha two years ago.

“It is tough, but I will try. We have to defend the title,” Bett told Capital Sport with a short response from London, preparing for the epic final.

The World Junior champion easily strode away to win his heat in a time of 1:45.02, the quickest qualification time from the preliminary ahead of 2013 champion Ethiopia’s Mohammed Amman on a night his compatriots struggled to find their feet.

Prior to departing for London, Bett – 19, had made it clear he was not going in just to merely make up the numbers but he will be up to fight for a medal.

“I am no longer a young boy. I have grown in experience, I know how to run a championship and I am not afraid of anyone. I am very much ready to step into those big shoes because I have trained very well,” the World Junior champion said.

He enters a hugely competitive field that includes an on-form Nijel Amos who has won all the 800m races he has taken part in this season in the Diamond League. The Botswana national failed to hack into the finals in 2015.

In the competitive field, Amos carries in the best time this season, having clocked 1:43.18 to win the London leg of the IAAF Diamond League on July 9.

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Also not to be ignored is Poland’s Adam Ksczot who won silver in Beijing and he showed his blistering form after winning his semi-final heat ahead of Amos with a superb injection of pace in the final 100m. The Pole has won one Diamond League race this season in Rome.

France’s Pierre Ambrose Bosse who finished fifth in Beijing and fourth in the Olympics last year is also a potential threat.

-Kemboi seeks fifth world crown-

Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya celebrates after winning gold in the Men’s 3000 metres steeplechase final during day three of the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing 2015 at Beijing National Stadium on August 24, 2015. PHOTO/IAAF/Getty Images

Not in his best shape, the four-time king of the water and hurdle race will be seeking a final hurrah when he lines up at the Olympic Stadium in what might be his last track show before moving to the road races.

Kemboi had said he would retire after the Rio Olympics last year, but he rescinded the decision after he was stripped of the bronze medal for stepping off the track.

“I want to retire with the national anthem playing in the background. That is why I have decided to go to London as my final race,” Kemboi said when he rescinded the decision.

He has had a quiet season, not giving his all in the Diamond League. He had to wait for confirmation that he was one of the six fastest losers from the preliminaries, having finished fourth in his heat won by American Evan Jagger.

Compatriot Jairus Birech also had to wait for the fastest loser confirmation, having struggled to finish fifth and was lucky his heat was a fast one.

The most realistic hope will however be on Conseslus, but, the 23-year old Olympic champion has been nursing an ankle injury since the Kenyan trials last month. He has however insisted he will jump above the pain barrier to get home his first ever senior championship gold.

Moroccan Soufiane Elbakkali and Frenchman Mehdin Mekhisi pose a threat to Kenya’s dominance in the race which has been made their own. Since 2007 in Osaka, Kenya has never lost the steeple title and in all those championships, they have always collected a minimum of two medals.

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Just like they did in 2015, the focus on Tuesday evening will be to sweep the medal table.

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