By Omulo Okoth in LONDON
Kenyans hope to celebrate another gold medal today, the penultimate day of the Olympic Games, which started here on July 27.
Pamela Jelimo and Janeth Jepkosgei will face a strong field, which includes South Africa’s former world champion Caster Semenya at 10pm Friday night, only half hour after the men’s 5,000m final.
Isaiah KIplang’at and Thomas Longosiwa will be hard pressed for a podium position in the race in which homeboy Mo Farah is the hot favourite along side Americans Galen Rupp and Bernard Lagat and Ethiopia’s Dejen Gebremeskel and Yenew Alamirew.
Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro and Morocco’s Abdallati Iguider are other athletes who could challenge for the title.
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But Kenya’s real hope lies in Jelimo, the defending champion who has emerged strongly this year and won all her preliminary races here.
Semenya looks very dangerous, having run the fastest qualifying time of 1:57.67 in the semi-finals on Thursday. Yet she looked like she did not exhaust her fuel as she won the second semi-final race ahead of Russia’s Elena Arzhakova and Jepkosgei.
Jelimo’s winning time if the first semi-final race of 1:59.42 was overally the ninth, but she also said she wasn’t done with the race.
“It was a tactical race, they took it out slowly. My plan was to qualify for the final. There is great pressure (going into the final). It’s going to be tough but I don’t want to be nervous,” she told reporers after her race.
“What is important for us (Kenyans) is to qualify for the final. It was tough, there was a little bit of pushing but it is good to know how to be tactical, how to be smart and how to look for your space,” she said.
Jepkosgei, silver medalist four years ago in Beijing, was happy to be in the final. “Being at the final for five years is something good. I am happy for that,” she said.
Elsewhere, newly-crowned Olympic Games 800m champion David Rudisha has urged for calm with regards to the performance by Kenyans at this Olympics.
“I know Kenyans had a lot of hope in men’s 1,500m just like the 800m.
But Asbel KIprop, who was to defend his title here, got injured in the final week of training which affected him. In sports, as in life, anything can happen and I want Kenyans to understand that,” he said. “We still have some races where we are likely to perform very well like women’s and men’s 5,000m, the women’s 800m and men’s marathon. We still have a chance to salvage the situation,” he said during the press conference that followed his world record (1:40.91) breaking gold medal, the first at this Olympics and the first by a Kenyan, inside the Olympic Park Stadium on Thursday.
Rudisha is the overall team captain of Kenya here. Kiprop, who had run the season’s fastest time (1:48) finished last in the men’s 1,500m race on Tuesday, while Silas Kiplagat, whose 1:49 was the second fastest this season, and Nixon Chepseba missed the medal bracket by far.