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It’s dogfight in Rome as Zakayo meets Cheptegei

ATHLETICS By Dennis Okeyo | June 5th 2019
Edward Zakayo celebrates during the IAAF World U18 Championships at Kasarani Stadium on July 13, 2017. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

World Under-20 5,000m champion Edward Zakayo is excited about making his Diamond League debut at the fourth leg of the IAAF Diamond League in Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy, tomorrow.

The 17-year-old came into limelight when he won silver in boy’s 3,000m at the 2017 IAAF World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi before enjoying a blistering 2018 season.

Zakayo opened his 2018 season at Commonwealth Games in Gold, Coast, Australia, where he won bronze in 13:54.06 behind Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei and Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed.

In July, the Form Three Student at Kapsait Secondary School in Elgeyo Marakwet proved his mettle in distance running when he won 3,000m at the IAAF World U-20 contest in Tampere, Finland, beating Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega.

At the African Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria, Zakayo won gold in his speciality. “I am excited to participate in the Diamond League for the first time. I have been watching the events on television. I don’t know what’s in store for me in Rome. I will gauge my form in Rome and then strive to win Rabat, Morocco, on June 16,” said Zakayo.

Zakayo will be up against a strong field that includes Ugandans Joshua Cheptegei and Oscar Chelimo as well as Ethiopia's Selemon Barega and Canadia's Mohammed Ahmed.

Other Kenyans in the star-studded lineup include world 10,000m bronze medalist Paul Tanui, Davis Kiplagat and Bethwel Birgen.

But fireworks are expected in 800m two-time IAAF Diamond League Trophy winner Ferguson Rotich battles former Olympic silver medalist Nijel Amos of Botswana. Commonwealth Games 800m champion Wycliffe Kinyamal and Jonathan Kitilit, who finished eighth at the opening leg in Doha last month, are in the mix.

Kenya’s Winny Chebet will lineup in 1500m alongside Olympic silver medalist Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia. The race will also feature America's Olympic bronze medallist Jenny Simpson, who won the race in Rome four years ago. Ethiopian athletes Gudaf Tsegay, Habitam Alemu, Axumawit Embaye, Morocco’s Rababe Arafi and European champion Laura Muir of Britain are also in contention.

The Rome Golden Gala Pietromenne, which is the fourth leg of the IAAF Diamond League meeting, has been dedicated to Italia’s former Olympic and world 200m record holder Pietro Mennea who died in 2013.

It features 14 Diamond League disciplines. Men’s events: 200m, 800m, 5000m, 110hs, high jump, triple jump and shot put. Women’s events: 100m, 400m, 1500m, 400hs, pole vault, long jump and javelin throw. The Rome Golden Gala also featured two additional men’s non-Diamond League events: the 400m hurdles and the 3000m steeplechase.

Kenyans in Rome

Men’s 800m 9:23pm

Ferguson Rotich

Wycliffe Kinyamal

Jonathan Kitilit

Men’s 5000m, 9:45pm

Edward Zakayo

Bethwel Birgen

Vincent letting

Paul Tanui

Davis Kiplagat

Women’s 1500m, 10:15pm

Winny Chebet

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