Focus on Kenya's traditional races as athletes eye slots to global meet

Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto (R gold) and Kenya’s Abraham Kibiwott (silver) celebrate after the athletics men’s 3000m steeplechase final during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast on April 13, 2018. / AFP PHOTO

A look at the invite list, adrenaline rush, celebrations and disappointments might be witnessed at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani tomorrow and Saturday, as athletes battle for slots to represent Kenya in the country’s traditional races.

The country has traditionally won medals in middle and long distance races at global competitions and the World Championships, and Commonwealth Games national trials showdown to be staged in Nairobi tomorrow and Saturday will be a battle of who will take part in the races that Kenya has dominated for decades.

The two global events will take place in July and August. The World Championships will take place between July 15 and 24 in Oregon, USA, while the Commonwealth Games are taking place between July 28 and August 8 in Birmingham, Great Britain.

With a total of 11 medals; five gold, two silver and four bronze, Kenya finished second behind USA in the medal table in the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

Talk of 3000m steeplechase, 800m, 1500m, 5000m and the marathon, and Kenya’s medals in those disciplines, during major global races, will pop up.

In men’s 3000m steeplechase, world champion Conseslus Kipruto will battle for the slot to represent Kenya with big shots who took part in the 2020 Olympics.

Kenya will be hoping to regain its dominance in the steeplechase after facing a humiliation in the water and barrier race at the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan last year.

The country lost the men’s steeplechase title for the first time in the last nine Olympic Games in Tokyo after Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali won gold as Benjamin Kigen secured a bronze in the event.

The World Championships and the Commonwealth Games, it appears, will be Kenya’s moment to make a comeback in 3000m steeplechase.

Kipruto will battle it out for slots to fly the Kenyan flag in the two global competitions with Kigen, the Olympic bronze medalist as well as Abraham Kibiwott who finished tenth in Tokyo and Leonard Bett who could not make the finals in Tokyo.

But World Under-20 3000m steeplechase champion Amos Serem, a rising star in the discipline is eyeing his World debut as competes with his seniors in Kasarani tomorrow.

Serem, who is turning 20 on August 28 this year won the World Under-20 title in Kasarani last August in style, and if he turns tables on his seniors tomorrow, then he will take up the duty of delivering for Kenya in the global competitions.

World record holder Beatrice Chepkoech will compete for the women’s 3000m steeplechase slot with Olympic bronze medalist Hyvin Kiyeng and Celliphine Chespol among other women.

Peruth Chemutai of Uganda triumphed at the Tokyo Olympics and a grueling race is expected in Oregon and Birmingham if the Ugandan will be taking part.

Kenya has also dominated 1500m in the World Championships for years. Asbel Kiprop clinched gold in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

In the last World Championships in Doha 2019, Timothy Cheruiyot easily captured the title but was denied gold by Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigsten  at the Tokyo Olympics last year. He won a silver in Tokyo.

Abel Kipsang, who won this year’s edition of Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi and who finished fourth in 1500m in Tokyo Olympics last year will also be seeking a slot.