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Huge dreams, hopes and prayers as worlds kick off nears

 August 6, 2021. Faith Kipyegon of Kenya celebrates winning the gold medal REUTERS

The long wait is no more. After three years of verbal jousting, the World Athletics Championships is finally here with us.

From tomorrow our days and nights will never be the same as the 18th World Athletics Championships start at Hayward Field inside University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon, in USA.

The nation awaits to see if Africa 100m record holder Ferdinand Omanyala will strike a medal at the World Championships.

His travel plans were still unclear yesterday since Omanyala had not received US visa. “I am waiting for the visa. If all goes well, I will travel via Amsterdam and connect to Portland. I hope to make it to Oregon in good time,” he said.

Olympic 800m champion Emmanuel Korir looks ready to assume David Rudisha’s mantle as king of the two-lap race.

And this time, Korir has been given the mantle to lead Kenyans to a genuine shot at the event that starts tomorrow in Oregon.

Apart from Korir, Kenya has three other entrants; the reigning Commonwealth Games champion Wycliffe Kinyamal and fast-rising stars duo of Emmanuel Wanyonyi and Noah Kibet.

Going by this season’s performance, it will be almost impossible to single out serious gold contenders in Oregon, but the American-based Korir, who has a season best of 1:45.85 and Kinyamal, who clocked the fastest time of the season 1:43.54, when he won the Kenyan trials last month, will no doubt be some of the race favourites.  

And the clash between Ethiopia’s two-time world indoor champion Samuel Tefera, Olympic bronze medallist Josh Kerr of UK and Norway’s Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen will also set tongues wagging.

Abel Kipsang, fourth at the Tokyo Olympic Games, in 1,500m will be a sight to behold.

With the Wanda Diamond League mid-way, the duel will surely confirm the 1,500m king in 2022.

Kenya's Emmanuel Korir (right) and Ferguson Rotich celebrate after winning 800m Olympic gold and silver medal respectively in men's 800m final . [AP]

But Timothy Cheruiyot, the 2019 winner at the World Championships in Doha and second at the national trials, will marshal forces with Kipsang, who holds the fastest time (3:31.01) set at the Kip Keino Classic meet in Nairobi this season.

Charles Simotwo, another member of Tokyo Olympic Games squad, and 2016 world under 20 champion Kumari Taki complete the four-team 1500m Kenyan squad.

It will be a battle of brain and brawn in men’s 3,000m steeplechase showdown.

Defending champion Conseslus Kipruto will join forces with Commonwealth Games silver medallist Abraham Kibiwott, Olympic bronze medallist Benjamin Kigen and Olympian Leonard Bett as they seek to dethrone Morocco’s Olympic champion Soufiane El Bakkali and Ethiopia’s silver medallist Lamecha Girma, who ended Kenya’s 52 years of dominance in the race at the Tokyo Olympic Games. There is also America’s 2016 Olympic silver medallist Evan Jager.

August 8, 2017. Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya wins the final. REUTERS

But a closer look at the 2022 best times gives El Bakkali, Girma and Hailemariyam Tegegn, another Ethiopian, a leg up in the quest for glory.

Bakkali basks in an impressive 7:58.28 best mark set at the Diamond League meeting Rabat, where he beat Girma (7:58.68). Tegegn boasts of 8:06.29 while Kibiwott has 8:06.73.

World Marathon Champion Ruth Chepng'etich during Athletics Kenya Track and Field Championships at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. April 9, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Kenyan men’s team are keen to make history with gold droughts in 5,000m and 10,000m. Commonwealth Games 10,000m bronze medallist Rodgers Kwemoi, half marathon specialist Daniel Mateiko and world under 20 10,000m silver medallist Stanley Waithaka shoulder Kenyan hopes to recapture men’s 10,000m title at the biennial showpiece.

Three athletes in two-time New York Marathon winner Geoffrey Kamworor, former Boston Marathon winner Lawrence Cherono and Barnabas Kiptum will line up in men’s marathon showdown on Sunday.

Two-time Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Kipyegon is keen to strike her second gold in the competition. 

Kipyegon, 27, was defeated to gold by Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands at the last edition championships in Doha in 2019, but since then she has been close to unbeatable at her favoured distance, her sole loss coming at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Florence last year after a thrilling home-straight duel with Hassan.

In Tokyo last year, she retained her Olympic title in style in 3:53.1 and has a high chance of reclaiming her title in Oregon. Kenya has entered Winnie Chebet, Judith Kiyeng and Edinah Jebitok who will ensure the crown returns to the country.

Ferdinand Omanyala wins the 100m final during the 3rd Athletics Kenya Track and Field championship held at Nyayo national stadium in Nairobi on March 05, 2022.[Stafford Ondego, Standard] 

Apart from Hassan, the strongest challengers for podium include Ethiopians Gudaf Tsegay and her compatriot Hirut Meshesa and Freweyni Hailu. Britain’s Laura Muir and Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo will have their eyes on a spot in the fina

Ruth Chepngetich claimed her first gold medal of the 2019 World Championships, clocking 2:32:43 in the steamy heat to gain her first major gold and going by her form that saw her win Nagoya Women’s Marathon she won in 2:17:18, just 10 seconds off her personal best and the second-fastest ever women-only marathon this year, it will be difficult for her opponents to stop her.

She will be joined by Judith Jeptum and Angela Tanui. Jeptum set a French all-comers’ record of 2:19:48 to win the Paris Marathon this year, while Tanui won the 2021 Amsterdam Marathon in 2:17:57.

Ethiopia will be represented by Gotytom Gebreslase, who won the 2021 Berlin Marathon on her debut and finished third in this year’s Tokyo Marathon in 2:18:18, Ababel Yeshaneh, second at the 2019 Chicago Marathon in a personal best of 2:20:51, and Ashete Bekere, third in last year’s London Marathon in 2:18:18, who has run 2:17:58 this year.

World silver 5,000m medallist Margaret Chelimo, Sheila Chepkirui and Hellen Obiri will carry the national flag in the 10,000m event.

Obiri missed out on a 10,000m medal at the 2019 World Championships and the Olympic Games in Tokyo, finishing fifth and fourth respectively, but the 32-year-old has the pedigree of a two-time world title winner at 5,000m.

Chelimo will also line up in the 5,000m alongside Gloria Kite and 2018 world under 20 5,000m champion Beatrice Chebet.

Kenya has claimed three of the last four women’s steeplechase titles at the World Championships and their chances in Oregon rest on Under 20 record holder Celliphine Chespol, Jackline Chepkoech, Beatrice Chepkoech and Purity Kirui.

Chepkoech gains an entry as defending world champion, though it’s difficult to assess her current form of the world record-holder as she has run the event just once this year, clocking 9:28.34 a in Nairobi in April, which she followed up with a below-par 8:50.74 3,000m run in Doha in May. 

Chespol set a world U20 record of 8:58.78 back in 2017 and is the quickest of the Kenyan quartet this year with the 9:10.17 she ran in Eugene, but she was beaten by Jackline Chepkoech national trials. 

Women’s 800m will be among the race to watch in Oregon, Kenya 22-year-old Mary Moraa – the 2017 world U18 400m silver medallist will among the top runners in the two-laps event and it will be interesting to see how she fares against strong American presentation led by Americans Athing Mu and Ajee Wilson.

Moraa will team up with Jarinter Mwasya and Naomi Korir.

 

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