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Who will fit into Rudisha’s shoes?

ATHLETICS By Jonathan Komen | June 14th 2021
England’s Kyle Langford and Kenya’s Wycliffe Kinyamal compete in the athletics men's 800m final during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast on April 12, 2018. AFP PHOTO

It remains a riddle as to who will ascend to the throne and succeed ‘King’ David Rudisha in 800m.

That is exactly what Wycliffe Kinyamal, the Commonwealth Games 800m champion, longs to achieve when he competes in men’s two-lap race on Thursday.

Fresh from winning the Diamond League meet in Doha, Kinyamal will take on world bronze medallist Ferguson Rotich as well as US-based youngsters in Michael Saruni, Emmanuel Korir and Elias Ng’eny, who posted an impressive 1:43.84 at the Olympic pre-trials at Nyayo Stadium a fortnight ago.

Cornelius Tuwei, Jonathan Kitilit, Kipng’etich Ng’eno, Collins Kipruto and Hillary Biwott are also in the mix.

Kinyamal, who is also the Africa junior 800m bronze medalist, wants to fit into the shoes of world 800m record holder David Rudisha and perhaps ensure the two-lap race dominance remains in his rural home in Poroko Village in Transmara County.

Interestingly, men’s 800m supremacy was initially dominated by athletes from Kabirisang village in Nandi County.

They include former world record holder Kenyan-born-Dane Wilson Kipketer, former Africa champion Sammy Kosgei and 2008 Olympic champion Wilfred Bungei.

But it’s no doubt that Kinyamal never looked outside his rural home for inspiration. He comes from a region with a rich 800m pedigree.

Emmanuel Korir sprints to beat Kipyegon Bett (right) and Michael saruni (left) at the national athletics trials at Nyayo staium. [PHOTO/DENNIS OKEYO]

They include 1987 world championships sensation Stephen Ole Marai, two-time world 800m champion Billy Konchella, 2011 World Youth champion Leonard Kosencha among others.

The postponement of 2020 Tokyo Olympics due to the Covid-19 pandemic was an ultimate mixed blessing as it gave Kinyamal a lifeline for a full recovery and hope to cut the Kenyan team.

“I’m back in training and my Olympic plans are on the right track. I have competed in a few local races. I can say it’s responding pretty well. My dream of replacing David (Rudisha) is still on. I really want to achieve this,” he said.

That’s not bad for the happy-looking Kimanyal, who was a high jumper while a student at Mogonga High School in Kisii County in 2015.

Kinyamal said: “I participated in high jump while in secondary school. After school, I stayed at home for some time before my friend Leshan Togom advised me to take up athletics. I heeded the advise.

Eunice Jepkoech Sum of Kenya reacts after competing in her women's 800 metres semi-final during the 15th IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing, China, August 27, 2015. REUTERS

At the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, Kinyamal, 23, showed his championship pedigree when he beat a rich field that included Botswana’s Nijel Amos to win his first global title.

Eunice Sum, the 2013 world champion, will anchor the women’s race. Sum, a cousin of 2007 world 800m champion Alfred Kirwa Yego, has been consistent at the world stage having won the 2013 world title then won Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2014 before settling for bronze in Beijing, China, in 2015.

She will battle Emily Cherotich, silver Africa Championships in 800m in Durban, South Africa.


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