What does Doha Worlds hold for Kenya’s squad?

By Kimathi Kamau: Sunday, September 15th 2019 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
Trials for World Athletics Championship at Nyayo National Stadium on Friday, Sept 13, 2019. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Gold in Beijing 2015. Silver in London 2017. What does Doha 2019 IAAF World Championships hold for Kenya?

That is the million-dollar question as the most successful African nation in the history of the event selected its team for the September 27 to October 6 Worlds on Friday.

Five champions from London 2017 where Kenya surrendered top spot to USA will return for a second bite at the cherry in Doha- Elijah Manangoi (men 1500m), Conseslus Kipruto (men 3000m steeplechase), Geoffrey Kirui (men marathon), Faith Chepng’etich (women 1500m) and Hellen Obiri (women 5000m).

Beijing 2015 winners, Julius Yego (men Javelin) and Hyvin Kiyeng (women 3000m steeplechase), two-time women marathon winner, Edna Kiplagat- who at 39 is the eldest member of the team as well as Moscow 2013 women 800m winner, Eunice Sum, are also in the mix.

London 2017 men 1500m silver winner, Timothy Cheruiyot and women 3000m-steeplechase record-holder, Beatrice Chepkoech who underlined their sizzling form in the run-up to Doha by collecting the 2019 IAAF Diamond League titles are also hoping to be champions.

AK had allocated 52 slots for Doha but on Friday, only 49 athletes were named with four upcoming athletes who defied the odds to grab places at the two-day event waiting clearance from the IAAF anti-doping watch dog- Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU).

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Daniel Simiyu, Nicholas Kimeli (both men 5000m), Sela Jepleting and Judy Chepng’etich (both women 1500m) made the provisional squad but cannot compete since they have not met the new IAAF rule that requires athletes to be tested at least thrice before the start of the Worlds.

AK has written to the AIU requesting the quartet to be tested before action starts.

Standard Sport looks at the five key take outs from another merciless Kenyan Trial- dubbed the mini-Worlds due to brutal nature of an event wherein following tradition, dreams are either born or buried.

 Manangoi siblings make history

The enduring Kenyan story at Doha 2019 will be the feat of the Manangoi brothers- Elijah and George- who between them, hold every title in 1500m bar the Olympics crown.

Having won silver in Beijing, the elder Manangoi went a step better in London when he led Cheruiyot to the Kenyan 1-2. However, injury has kept him out for most of the season, returning to action only last month as he races against the clock to achieve the form that saw him win gold in London before adding the Commonwealth and African titles in succession.

Young George rose to prominence when he took gold at the Nairobi 2017 World Under 17 before winning gold in World Under 20 last year and recently, his first senior crown at Morocco African Games last month.

Having sat out the Trials due to holding a wild card for Doha, the London 2017 winner almost broke to tears when George finished third behind Cheruiyot and Ronald Kwemoi to punch his Doha ticket.

“This is a great achievement for the Manangoi family. George, Timothy, Ronald and I are a good team and we will work together to bring back the gold. I will not be jealous if any of them wins,” the emotional Elijah stated.

According to Elijah, two other Manangoi running brothers are in the pipeline. This is shaping up to be quite an athletics dynasty!

 Edna Kiplagat’s unfinished business

Daegu 2011 and Moscow 2013 women marathon queen, Kiplagat has unfinished business at the Worlds. The unwitting victim of drug cheats who have denied her glory in the elite circuit and major championships over the last six years; the indefatigable Kiplagat has not given up the pursuit for history.

In Doha, she will be aiming to go one better than London where she was beaten to silver by the Bahrain’s Rose Chelimo, who denied her a place in the annals of history as the first three-peat winner of the women’s marathon.

“I will do my best and leave the rest to God,” the unassuming female marathon great that almost quit when she was beaten to silver in 2017 quipped.

 The doping stink that refuses to go away

Spare a thought for Michael Kibet and Daniel Simiyu who finished first and second in the men 5000m final on Thursday, the upcoming athletes were waiting for their chance to be called out only for AK to name only third place finisher Nicholas Kimeli.

Almost disconsolate, officials and journalists attempted to explain to the athletes the new IAAF rules that dictate that only those who have been tested at least thrice can be eligible for Doha with Kenya still in the IAAF watch list.

“We submitted to be tested after I won the nationals and later but this has not been done,” Simiyu claimed.

Trials Competition Director, Barnaba Korir, maintained they could not subvert the rules and should AIU decline their request to test the athletes, replacements that are eligible will take up their slots.

As the drama unfolds, one thing is clear, the doping stink that has landed Kenya in the doping watch list could end up crushing the fairy tales of upcoming local athletes.

Yego, Sawe hold field medals dreams

In 2015, Yego became an enduring symbol of the Beijing Worlds when his monster 92.72m African men Javelin record landed Kenya’s her first-ever gold from the infield. In 2016, the lanky Mathew Sawe created his own legend when he won Kenya a first High jump gold at the 2016 Asaba African Championships.

Both athletes returned home with the gold from the recent Morocco African Games igniting hopes that any loss of medals on the track could be compensated in the field.

“After my injury during the Rio 2016 Olympics, my form was badly affected but now I feel good enough to give it a go in Doha,” the confident Yego whose title defence crashed in London asserted.

 ‘King David’ Rudisha, not done yet

For the second successive Worlds, injury has robbed Kenya arguably her biggest track star of modern times in the shape of Daegu 2011 and Beijing 2015 world men 800m champion and record holder David Rudisha.

In 2017, it was an injury with on the eve of departure to London that saw him pull out of the team. Two years later, the same quad muscle strain and back injuries have not recovered sufficiently for the 30-year-old to roar back in action.

On August 25, a terrible road accident where his SUV collided with a bus stokes fears about his well-being but the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic champion who set the astonishing 1:40.91 world record in the former insisted he was not done yet.

“Winning a third Olympics gold medal is the motivation for me to return next year. I’m fine but I know it will not be easy since there are many good guys in 800m. I’m working for a big comeback next year,” Rudisha, who watched the action unfold from the stands pledged.

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