Wanyonyi and Ng'eno carry Kenya's hopes as Korir bows out

Jacob Krop of Team Kenya Looks on after competing in men's 5000m final athletics event at the Alexander Stadium, on day nine of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, central England, on August 6, 2022. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

Olympic and world 800m champion Emmanuel Korir and Olympic silver medallist Ferguson Rotich dramatically bowed out in the heats at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, on Tuesday night.

Korir, the reigning Olympic champion, finished fourth in a race won by France’s Benjamin Robert in 1:46.45.

Two Kenyan athletes out of four survived the heats: Emmanuel Wanyonyi, who topped the overall standings in 1:44.92 and Alex Ngeno Rotich, who was third in heat one in 1:47.63. Rotich, the bronze medallist from Doha, fell off the radar with his sixth position in heat four and did not advance.

It now means that Wanyonyi and Ngeno will be the only Kenyans fighting for a place in the semi-finals today in a race that Kenyans have dominated in the last two World Championships and also the last two Olympic games.

Meanwhile, it will be a make-or-break as Kenya longs to end the men’s 5000m gold drought at the World Championships when heats are held tonight at 8pm.

World 5000m silver medalist Jacob Krop, Commonwealth Games 5000m silver medalist Nicholas Kimeli, fast-rising Cornelius Kemboi and world cross country Under-20 champion Ismael Kirui will be out to reclaim the 5000m title Benjamin Limo won in Helsinki, Finland, in 2005 and that mission starts today as they fight for a place in the final.

Krop (12:46.02), Kimeli (12:55.46), Kemboi (13:00.68) and Kirui (13:05.47) have a mountain to climb against Ethiopians and Ugandans as well as Kenyan-born American and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Paul Chelimo (13:03.12) and Olympic champion Joshua Cheptegei (12.41.61) of Uganda. Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda pulled out due to injury last week.

Ethiopians Berihu Aregawi (12:40.45), Yomif Kejelcha (12:41.61), Hagos Gebrhiwet (12:42.18), Telahun Haile Bekele (12:42.70) will be itching for glory. Krop has competed in two Diamond League meetings this season where he finished third in 3000m at the Meeting in Paris, France and an eighth-place at the meeting in Florence, Italy.

In Oregon, it was too close yet so far for Krop to end Kenya’s then 17-year gold drought in men’s 5,000m as he battled Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen to the wire to win silver.

Krop and Kirui now have monumental records in Kenya’s national teams to the World Championships –both made the national team at 17 years as the youngest in the teams. Krop made the 2019 World Championships squad to Doha, Qatar, as Form Three student.

Kirui is a Form Three Student at Mochongoi Secondary School in Baringo County and Kenya won the last men’s 5000m gold medal before he was born.

Kimeli, a member of the Tokyo Olympic Games squad, will double in 5000m and 10,000m thanks to a wild card as the 2022 Diamond League Trophy winner.

But he shocked the world last year when he set a meet record of 12:46.33 inside Stadio Olympico at the Rome Diamond League race, where he erased Eliud Kipchoge’s record of 12:46.53. Kimeli settled for silver in the 5,000m at the Commonwealth Games inside Alexander Stadium in Birmingham.

The race will no doubt see an intense struggle for supremacy. Norway’s Olympic 1500m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who earned a first world title at this distance in Oregon last year after suffering the shock of being beaten to gold in the metric mile by Britain’s Jake Wightman, is in ominously good form as he plans his defence but he is up against some strong challengers.

After marking his recovery from a viral illness by winning the European indoor 1500m and 3000m titles in Istanbul, Ingebrigtsen has been an unstoppable force over 1500m this year, improving his European record to 3:27.14 at last month’s Silesia Diamond League meeting.

While Ingebrigtsen has not run a 5000m this season, he looks ready to improve on the European record of 12:48.45 he set in Florence two years ago. Despite his relative youth, he is already a seasoned championship runner at the distance, having also won two European titles.

Cheptegei, who set the world record of 12:35:36 in Monaco three years ago, represents the most monumental of challengers, albeit that he could only finish ninth in Oregon last year.

Cheptegei, who retained his world title over 10,000m at Hayward Field and has won the 10,000m in Budapest , is currently second fastest in the world this season with a 12:41.61 set at the Lausanne Diamond League meeting.

But a more imminent threat to the 22-year-old Norwegian could be Ethiopia’s 22-year-old Berihu Aregawi, who beat Cheptegei into second place in Switzerland with a time of 12:40.45. That’s the fastest performance in the world this year.

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