By Gilbert Wandera
Silas Kiplangat, the current 1,500m World silver medalist,?says fans should expect a ‘battle of men’ when a field of?athletes line up during the Olympic trials on Saturday.
The men’s 1,500m has one of the strongest fields in the two days trials with three of the athletes boasting of impressive times this year.
Apart from Kiplangat, there is World champion Asbel Kiprop and Nixon Cheseba who won the Diamond League series in 2011.
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Kiplagat said his biggest challenge is Kiprop whom he beat in Doha in May during a Diamond League meet.
“Overall, there is a very strong field lined-up for the race. My biggest opponent remains Kiprop whom we have always exchanged top positions with. But I cannot forget to mention Nixon Cheseba who recently won in Hengelo,”
“Let local fans expect a battle of men because everybody is tough and can be picked to represent the country in the London Olympics,” he said.
Kiplagat said he is motivated to be in the Kenyan team for the Olympic Games and will use tomorrow’s semi-finals as training for the final day.
“On Thursday, we run the semi-finals and, for me, this is a great training opportunity to be fit for the final on Saturday which I expect to be very tough,” he added.
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Kiplangat’s boast of a personal best time of 3:29.6, while Kiprop and Chepseba boast of equally impressive times of 3:29.8 and 3:29.9.
Janeth Jepkosgei, the world 800m silver medalist, can expect a tough time when she attempts to qualify from this group when she makes her appearance in 1,500m.
Jepkosgei, who will also run in the 800m trials, can expect stiff opposition from Hellen Obiri, who was runners-up in Hengelo in May and 1,500m Olympic champion Nancy Jebet Lagat.
It will be interesting to watch Lagat, who has not run anywhere this season. On Tuesday, she said she had taken a short break from running and declined to be drawn into her expectations for the race.
“This year, I have decided to take a little break and even now I cannot confirm whether I will take part in the trials,” she said.
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She, however, conceded that the field for the trials is very strong and whoever is picked is a medal prospect.
“I admit that the field is strong and competitive, making the trials interesting and exciting,” she added.
Other top athletes who will line up here are Hellen Obiri, Mercy Cherono, Viola Kibiwott and Eunice Sum.
Meanwhile, Olympic 800m silver medallist Janeth Jepkosgei will not be doubling up in both 1,500m and in her speciality. Jepkosgei, said she is just focused on winning a berth in the Kenya team in the two-lap race.
“I want to focus on just one race and that is 800m. May be in Moscow 2013, I will be doubling up, but that is not something to speak about now.
“The focus is on winning a berth to the Olympics. I have got some problems in my training, which I have discussed with Athletics Kenya and they know my position. So on Saturday, it will be just about winning in my race and getting that ticket to London Games,” she said.
Jepkosgei, who is also the Africa silver medallist, said her six years performance at the high level has seen her give everything and she has medals to prove that.
“Therefore for me, the performance in London is not important as was in Beijing. I want a podium finish and may be get gold, but I owe nobody anything. I will run my race and hope to do well,” she said.
But Jepkosgei is also surprised by her form this season. Ordinarily, she would be struggling to run a sub 1:58 time in the build-up to the big event. But she has easily done that on two accessions at Doha Diamond League at start of May and in Hengelo, where she posted a season best time of 1:57.79.
“It is giving me inspiration that I am on my way up there with the best in the world. So all I want is to keep my focus and see how far it will take me,” she said.
Only three slots are up for grabs and Jepkosgei is aware of the challenge from Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo, training mate Eunice Sum, and former World Junior champions Lydia Wafula, Winnie Chebet and Cherono Koech.
Jepkosgei won Kenya silver medal in Beijing, gold in Osaka World Championships in 2007, silver in Berlin in 2009 and was frustrated to finish second in Nairobi in 2010 at the Africa Senior Athletics Championships.
“I have since moved on from that disappointment and only look at winning gold in London,” she said.