By Omulo Okoth
All three steeplechasers made it to the final, as Joyce Zakary also proceeded in the women’s 400m as the athletics programme started inside a packed Olympic Stadium, in London on Friday.
Defending champion in the water and hurdle race Brimin Kipruto, twice world champion Ezekiel Kemboi and Africa Gold medallist Abel Mutai are all through to the final tomorrow after what appeared easy first round races.
“We’ll meet this evening or tomorrow morning to plan how we shall take on the opposition,” Kipruto, smiling confidently, told reporters inside the mixed zone.
However, his other compatriots, Mutai and Kemboi sprinted through the packed mixed zone without fielding questions or even acknowledging the presence of tens of reporters.
Reporters keenly awaited Kemboi after a legal mishap back home in Eldoret that almost locked him out of the Games.
He has a pending court case in Eldoret after allegedly injuring a 24-year-old woman. The case is coming up in September.
If that was what most reporters were waiting to ask him, he made it worse by running behind the pack for almost four laps before moving to the front and eventually slowing down with 10 metres to finish, allowing Ethiopian champion Roba Gari to finish in top position.
Kemboi timed 8:20.97 while the Ethiopian was timed at 8:20.68 and Hamid Ezzine of Morocco came in third after 8:21.25 and Donald Cabral from USA was fourth in 8:21.26. The last qualifier from this heat was Ion Luchianov from Macedonia, who was fifth in 8:22.09.
Kipruto’s winning time was 8:28.62 with Yuri Floriani of Italy was second in 8:29.01 ahead of Morocco’s Brahim Taleb (8:29.02) and Jukka Keskisalo fourth in 8:29.13.
Debutant Mutai finished third in the first heat in 8:17.70, behind the French winner Mahiedine Mekhisi-Benabbad (8:16.23) and American Evan Jager (8:16.61). Turkey’s Kenyan-born Akdag Tarik Langat was fourth in 8:17.85.
In 400m women race, Zakary finished third in the first heat of women’s 400m in 51.85 behind the winner Francena McCorory of USA who timed 50.78 and Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu (50.80).