|Paul Kipsiele (right) and Augustine Choge (left) during the Police Championships. [PHOTO: STAFFORD ONDEGO / STANDARD]|
By Jonathan Komen
Kenya’s national athletics contests are often billed mini-World Championships.
And the maxim will once again be put to test at the National Bank/Athletics Kenya national track and field championships at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, from today, setting the stage for 14th IAAF World Championships nationals’ trials slated for mid next month.
The three-day showpiece, which brings together the 16 AK affiliates, will be teeming with a mix of new talents who will be up against a crowded field of elite.
World 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop, who ran a brilliant 3:28.88 personal best at the Monaco Diamond League last year, will take on newcomers Zablon Chumba and Vincent Leting of Central Rift.
The lanky Kiprop, who turns 26 on Sunday next week, said he was ready for the big battle. “I have raced at the Diamond League, but I feel it is also good to give our nationals a shot,” said Kiprop.
World Indoor 3,000m silver medalist, Augustine Choge, world silver medalist Silas Kiplagat and Diamond League speedster Bethwel Birgen are others to watch.
Former world junior champions Bernard Kaptingei and James Magut will spice up the line-up.
With the absence iconic world 800m record holder, David Rudisha, former world 400m hurdles silver medalist, Jeremiah Mutai, and Olympic 800m bronze medalist, Timothy Kitum, will lead the two-lap race charges.
They will go head-to-head with former world champion, Alfred Kirwa Yego, former Africa bronze medalist, Jackson Kivuva and Job Kinyor.
Two-time Olympic and world 3,000m steeplechase champion, Ezekiel Kemboi, needs to be at his best to replay the famous ‘Kemboi Dance’ lyric in Kasarani.
Kemboi, who competes for Kenya Police, was second to World Junior champion Conseslus Kipruto in Eugene and Oslo Diamond legs –he has a leg up in Kasarani, having maintained unbeaten run this season.
But Kipruto, boasting a personal best time he posted at the Bislett Games in Oslo last Thursday, has his task cut out, having set a fast 8:01.16 in Shanghai last month.
The 18-year-old will have Commonwealth Games champion Richard Mateelong and his brother Peter Mateelong, former Olympic medalist Paul Kipsiele Koech and Olympic bronze medalist Abel Mutai to content with.
Former Olympic bronze medalist Edwin Soi, who beat double world champion Mo Farah in New York, will light men’s 5,000m race.
He will duck it out with Olympic bronze medalist Thomas Longosiwa, Africa bronze medalist Timothy Kiptoo and former world cross-country junior champion Geoffrey Kipsang.
World’s fastest marathoner Geoffrey Mutai (2:03.02), world cross-country runner Hosea Macharinyang and national cross-country champion Philemon Rono headline men’s 10,000m duel.
Fireworks are expected in the women’s 800m battle when Africa 800m bronze medalist Eunice Sum square it out with former world junior silver medalist Winnie Chebet. Two-time world junior 3,000m champion Mercy Cherono has a date with All Africa Games champion Irene Jelagat in 1,500m.
World 5,000m silver medalist Sylvia Kibet, former Commonwealth Games Youth 1,500m champion Stasy Ndiwa and two-time world cross-country junior champion Viola Kibiwott top the 5,000m line up.