Kenya’s long-distance queens battle for Worlds slots

By: AYUMBA AYODI

No one should anticipate another fine field than what awaits in the women’s 10,000m race when the World Championships trials start Friday at the Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani.

The galaxy of stars in the field led by the 2011 World champion Vivian Cheruiyot is simply what can be describe as the country’s crème de la crème over the 25-lap race.

Besides Cheruiyot, who has the fastest time of 31:13.29 this season, there is the 2012 London Olympics 10,000m silver medallist, Sally Kipyego, reigning World Cross Country champion, Agnes Jebet, the 2010 and 2013 World Cross Country champion Emily Chebet.

Then the Commonwealth 10,000m champion Joyce Chepkirui, who is also the national 10,000m champion, World 10,000m silver medallist, Gladys Cherono, who is also the reigning World Half Marathon champion, the 2006 World 10,000m champion Linet Masai, and 2009 World Cross country champion Florence Kiplagat, who holds the World Half Marathon record.

Dotting the rich list too are Selly Kaptich, Kenya Defence Forces champion Veronica Nyaruai, Betsy Saina and Grace Mbithe, who has the second fastest time this season of 31:57.35 in the pack.

CHERUIYOT HOT FAVOURITE

The main focus will definitely be on Cheruiyot, who failed to defend her 10,000m and 5,000m titles during the 2013 World Championships in Moscow after taking a maternity break.

Cheruiyot ran her first track race on return from maternity break at the Prefontaine Classic on May 30, finishing third in 14:46.69 behind Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba 14:19.76 and compatriot Faith Chepng’etich 14:31.95 in 5,000m.

Cheruiyot, 31, would clock 8:39.75 to finish second behind Ethiopian Almaz Ayana, who clocked a world lead 8:22.22 in the 3,000m at the IAAF World Challenge in Rabat, Morocco on June 14.

Cheruiyot’s victory of 31:13.29 in Bruxelles on July 4 makes her the fastest Kenyan woman this season over the distance and places her 10th overall in the world this season.

“My body is back in shape and I’m liking it. I just want to see how it goes,” said Cheruiyot, who won the 1,500m title at the National Athletics Championships at the Safaricom Stadium, Kasarani.

“It has been a struggle as you know this was my first child,” said Cheruiyot with a telling laughter. “But the Pocket Rocket is back to sting as my son is now big enough. My training has been intensive and I hope to make it to Beijing.”

PERSON TO WATCH

After her silver medal exploits in 2012 London Olympics, Kipyego, is still a person to watch. She has managed to compete in 5,000m races this season, finishing fourth in Eugene before winning in Palo Alto.

Jebet’s victory at the World Cross, making her the youngest athlete to win at 19, puts her firmly in the race alongside her predecessor Chebet, who has been struggling to hit top form this season. Chebet won bronze in 10,000m at the Commonwealth Games.

After winning the 10,000m and 5,000m Africa titles in 2012, Cherono went on to claim silver at the 2013 Worlds and victory at the World Half Marathon in 2014. She moved to marathon this year, clocking 2:20:03 for a second place at the Dubai Marathon.

Chepkirui won the Commonwealth and Africa titles last year, which puts her in strong position but it remains to seen how Masai, who has been plagued by injuries will fare on.

Kiplagat, who won silver at the Commonwealth, broke the half marathon world record running 1:05:12 in Barcelona in 2014 and would better the times in a new time of 1:05:09 at the same course February this year. That alone speaks volume for Kiplagat, the 2011 and 2013 Berlin Marathon champion.

The men and women’s 20km walk races will be held Friday morning. Five-time Africa champion Grace Wanjiru, who has attained the World Championships qualifying time, and David Kimutai are favourites to win in their respective races.

Mike Mokamba (10.23), Mark Otieno (10.48) and Brian Gitura (10.50) will be chasing the worlds qualifying time of 10.16 in men’s 100m.

RUDISHA STILL FAVOURITE

Olympic champion and world record holder, David Rudisha, who has season best of 1:43.56, will highlight the men’s 800m semi-finals that have Robert Kiptoo, who has the best time this season of 1:43.56.

World junior champion Alfred Kipketer (1:44.33), the 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist, Timothy Kitum (1:45.45) and the World Relays silver medallist, Ferguson Rotich (1:43.92) and 2006 World junior silver medallist, Jackson Kivuva (1:45.40).

Rudisha, who won in New York with season’s best 1:43.58, is fresh from finishing second behind Nijel Amos from Botswana at Lausanne and London Diamond League meets.

Rudisha was simply a pale shadow of the man who beat Amos to second place at the 2012 London Olympics where he improved on his own world record with new times of 1:40.91.

Rudisha’s performance has left many questioning whether the 2011 World Champion will rediscover his former glory before the Worlds.

Kiptoo’s time of 1:43.56 from his victory in Barcelona on July 8 adds a new twist to the rich field.

HOW TO QUALIFY

The first two athletes to cross the finishing line will gaining automatic qualification for the World Championships due August 22 to 30 in Beijing, China.

The third person to go through will be decided by the panel of selectors led by head coach Julius Kirwa.

However, it’s good to note that those making through must have attained their respectively events qualifying standard times.

One can win but it will be useless without having the time.

Athletes in middle and long distance races have attained qualifying times for the Worlds. Kenya has few qualifiers in short distances race in both men and women’s 200m, 400m and 400m hurdles.

There is only one qualifier in field events, Commonwealth and Africa javelin champion, Julius Yego, who holds the Diamond League record of 91.39 from Birmingham on June 7.

Joyce Sakari (22.4) and Eunice Kadogo (23.2) have beaten the 23.20 time in 200m while US-based Carvin Nkanata (20.14) and Mike Mokamba (20.50) are the only ones to surpass the 20.50 qualifying time in men’s race.

Sakari (51.14) is the only one to hit the 400m standard of 52.00 while Alphas Kishoyan (44.75), Alex Sampao (45.22) and Raymond Bett (45.39) beat men’s time of 45.50.

Francisca Koki (55.82) is the only one to have beaten the 400m hurdles time of 56.20 while Boniface Mucheru (48.92), Nicholas Bett (49.9) have in men’s race.

Elijah Mitei (16.36) and Matthew Sawe (2.24) will be trying to secure qualifying distances in triple jump (16.90) and high jump (2.28) respectively.