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Tough start for Kenyans in morning programme as track and field events start in Tokyo

Kenya's Benjamin Kigen and Abraham KIbiwot advanced to the 3000m steeplechase semifinals [photo courtesy]

The morning session on the opening day of the track and field programme at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday did not start well for Kenyans in Tokyo.

While many expected the men 3,000m steeplechase and the women 800m heats to be smooth sailing, it was far from that as three Kenyans failed to make it past their first race on the track here in Tokyo.

Benjamin Kigen and Abraham Kibiwott had started the day well for Kenya after safely going through to the 3,000m steeplechase final on Friday after finishing in the top three positions which meant automatic qualification to the final.

Leonard Bett however ripped the Kenyan script apart when he failed to finish in the top three positions in heat three.

His time of 8:19.62 in finishing fifth in his heat was still even slower for the six fastest losers in the three heats.

Kigen who was in the first heat finished third in the race won by Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma.

Japan’s Ryuji Miura made his home fans who watched from the comfort of their homes happy after finishing in the second position.

Kigen clocked 8:10.80 which was a season-best, not a bad time considering the humidity in Japan.

Girma won in 8:09.83 with Miura’s 8:09.92 not only good for second place, but it was also a Japanese national record.

In the second heat, Kibiwott had no time to hang around as he won his heat without much fuss.

Kibiwott clocked 8:12.25 while Getnet Wale of Ethiopia was second in 8:12.55 with Italy’s Ahmed Abdelwahed third in 8:12.71.

For Bett though he will regret allowing other athletes to pass him at the final water jump when he was in a good position to finish in the top three positions in the race won by pre-race favourite Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakalli.

There was more heartbreak for Kenya in the women 800m heats with Mary Moraa the only Kenyan to book a slot in the semi-finals.

2013 World champion Eunice Sum was the first casualty in the two-lap race for Kenya after finishing in the sixth position in heat two after clocking 2:03.00 in a race won by Jamaica’s Natoya Goule.

Moraa however made sure there will be a Kenyan in the semi-finals and probably the final after finishing third in the third heat in 2:01.66. The race was won by Raevyn Rogers of USA who clocked 2:01.42.

The third Kenyan in 800m women line up Emily Cherotich Tuei also bowed out after finishing last in heat 6.

Tuei who clocked 2:08.08 later said she picked up an injury in the first lap and it was difficult for her to keep up with the rest in the final lap.

In high jump, Mathew Sawe who was making his debut at the Olympics also found it tough after finishing last in the qualifying round.

Sawe leapt to a height of 2.17m.

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