By Chris Musumba and IAAF
The Rome Diamond League race will witness a brutal battle pitting Vivian Cheruiyot against Ethiopian Meseret Defar, Genzebe Dibaba taking on Hellen Obiri and Kenyans bidding for supremacy in 3,000m men steeplechase.
Cheruiyot, the gold medallist in the 5000m and 10,000m in Daegu, training mate Sylvia Kibet, Ethiopia’s Defar and compatriot Gelete Burka roll up their sleeves in what could be a pre-Olympic final in 5,000m race.
In their previous clashes Defar clearly prevails over the others. The Ethiopian leads 11-4 over Cheruiyot, 12-2 over Kibet and 8-0 over Burka. Cheruiyot prevailed 18 times over Kibet in 20 meets and only once over Burka who often runs over shorter distances, but leads 3-1 over Kibet.
Four Kenyans will stand out in the Rome spotlight over 3,000m steeplechase distance. Paul Kipsiele Koech, Ezekiel Kemboi, Richard Mateelong and Brimin Kipruto will have no love lost as they seek to launch their Olympic countdown.
Kemboi (7:55.76) won the Olympic title in 2004 and has won a medal at each of the last five editions of the World Championships, capped by successive golds in 2009 and 2011. Koech (PB 7:56.37 clocked in Rome 2005) won Olympic bronze in 2004 and has produced eight of history’s 32 sub-eight minute performances. Kipruto won the 2008 Olympic title and was Olympic silver medallist in Athens and won the world title in Osaka.
Last year he narrowly missed Saif Shaheen’s World record (7:53.63) by just one one-hundredth of a second. Mateelong has also dipped under the eight minutes barrier after clocking 7:56.81 in Doha on May 11. They will take on Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi Banabbad 8:02.09, the second fastest time by a European.
In women 800m race, leading the charge is Olympic Champion Pamela Jelimo. She holds a 1:54.01 personal best time, the fastest for 29 years.
This year she returned to her best form winning the World Indoor title. There will be compatriot Janeth Jepkosgei, who holds a 1:56.04 PB set when she won the gold in Daegu in 2007.