It was a day that started with huge expectation. And it did not disappoint as the clash pitting Kenya’s track big shots lived up to its hot billing.
Big dreams and some shattered ambitions were quite evident on the first day of World Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games national trials inside Kasarani Stadium yesterday.
The first two athletes across the line picked automatic slots to global athletics gala in Eugene, USA, on July 14-15.
Nicholas Kimeli, fourth at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 5000m, toyed around the rich field that had Jacob Krop, Cornelius Kemboi, Edward Zakayo and Daniel Ebenyo.
With spectators on their feet, Kimeli deployed the afterburners with a killer pace that left his opponents gasping for breath. He won in 13:28.76 ahead of Krop (13:29.20), Kemboi (13:29.90), Ebenyo (13:30.73), Emmanuel Kiprop (13:31.75) and Benson Kiplagat (13:32.91).
Samuel Chebolei (13:35.93), Edward Zakayo (13:35.93) and Levy Kibet (15:54.42) followed.
Kimeli said: “We tactically slowed down the pace to save energy for the final lap. I decided to deliberately control the race since Krop and I are teammates.
“I am happy we have qualified for the World Championships. I know our rivals Ethiopia also have good athletes but we have studied them well. I beat them at the Rome Diamond League and there is nothing different at the World Championships. It is just a matter of planning. I expect to win at least a medal.”
Krop said: “I am confident we can win gold at the World Championships. We need to prepare well.”
Africa champion Winnie Chebet won 1500m in 4:11.21 ahead of Edinah Jebitok (4:11.87), Purity Chepkirui (4:11.96), Susan Enjore (4:12.40) and Judy Kiyeng (4:13.41). Brenda Chebet (4:14.13) and Merceline Cherono (4:24.63) sealed the top seven spots.
Chebet said: “I never expected to win this race. I suffered from flu from last week. I thank God. I have been actively competing in the nationals for long and I hope to utilise the experience to win a medal in Eugene. It takes a lot of sacrifice and discipline to remain consistent in athletics for long.”
It was a village affair in men’s 3,000m steeplechase showdown as world Under-20 champion Amos Serem pulled a fast one on Commonwealth Games silver medalist Abraham Kibiwott and two-time world champion Conselus Kipruto.
The three, who come from Mosoriot in Nandi County, produced a brilliant showing in what raised Kenyan hopes of dethroning Morocco’s Olympic champion Soufiane El Bakkali at the World Championships.
Serem won in 8:17.03 beating Kibiwott (8:17. 79) and Kipruto (8:18.21) as Amos Kirui (8:19.09), Leonard Bett (8:20.43), Philemon Kiplagat (8:22.72) and Olympic bronze medalist Benjamin Kigen (8:30.16) followed.
Serem said he was not sure of making the team. I ensured that I came top two to make the team.
“I really doubted making it but at 300m to the finish, I got re-energised and I pulled away,” said Serem.
Kipruto said he banked on experience to make the team. “I have a wild card and wanted to save energy. I wanted to show my fans that I am back.
“We have a strong team. We will beat Bakkali and I am sure of that. Kenyans should not worry at all. I am prepared to represent the nation and bring back our 3,000m steeplechase glory,” said Kipruto.
Kibiwott said: I prepared for this race from January. I have recovered well from back injury I sustained before Africa Championships. We are certain to win medals in Eugene.”
World 5000m champion Hellen Obiri proved her mettle as she picked 10,000m ticket in a dramatic battle. She won in 31:49.88 ahead of former Africa 5,000m champion Sheila Chepkirui (31.50.13), world 5,000m silver medalist Margaret Chelimo (31:50.22) and 2007 world cross country champion Irene Cheptai (31:52.03).
Obiri said: “We have a strong team. I was not focused on track races. I will focus on marathon after August. I want to leave track on a high.”
Mary Moraa produced a sizzling 1:57.45 to win 800m ahead of two-time Olympic 1500m champion Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon (1:58.18) and Jarinter Mawia (2:00.36).
Olympic 800m champion Emmanuel Korir qualified in 400m in 44.87.
A number of races are lined up today before the national team is named.