By Omulo Okoth
Even as the global television audience sits back to watch Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and countryman Yohan Blake battle in the 100m final Sunday night, Kenyan steeplechasers will also be going for medals in a race the world has dubbed as their own.
The race starts at 11.25pm, one hour after the men’s 1,500m semi-finals in which the world’s fastest runners this season Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop, Nixon Chepseba and world silver medalist Silas Kipagat are the top-of-the-bill attractions.
If head coach Julius Kirwa is to be believed on his prediction on the water and hurdle event, then even Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi Benabbad, who spoilt the Kenyan party in Beijing four years ago, won’t have it easy this time.
Kirwa was worried with Kemboi’s apparent overconfidence during the Friday preliminary rounds. But he thought that was reckless confidence.
“This is Olympics and such overconfidence is a big risk, which we don’t want to see on Sunday.
“I have spoken to them and we have agreed on a game plan, which we shall keep to ourselves until that day to execute,” said Kirwa.
Kemboi decided to run behind for four laps, caught up with the rest then slowed down considerably with some 10 metres to finish, drifted to the outside lane to let the Ethiopian champion Roba Gari to win.
He did not speak to the media to explain why he did that.
Kipruto and Mutai were also very strong, which promises a fierce battle tonight. There is the Kenyan-born Tarik Akdag Langat running for Turkey, two Moroccans Hamid Ezzine and Brahim Taleb, Ethiopia’s Gari, the Frenchman, two Americans Evan Jager and Donald Cabral to watch, too. Italy’s Yuri Floriani and Fin Jukka Keskisalo complete the lineup.
But what the general public is sure of here is that the gold will go to Kenya. What they don’t know is which of the three Kenyans will have the last laugh.