World women 5000m titleholder, Vivian Cheruiyot, stole the headlines on Day 2 of the National Bank of Kenya National Athletics Championships after deploying her famed last-lap afterburners to subdue a deep 10,000m field on Friday (15).
With her victory, Cheruiyot expressed her mission to compete for top honours in the distance double at the IAAF World Championships, Daegu, Korea, that will run from 27 August to 4 September 2011.
The keynote race of the day had a number of enticing ‘under card’ contests with World 800m record holder, David Rudisha, Olympic 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop, Commonwealth Games 400m winner Mark Mutai and his Delhi 1500m counterpart Silas Kiplagat among the crop of renowned athletes who took a step closer to Daegu.
Africa women 20km Race Walk champion, Grace Wanjiru is also on the cusp of realising her dream to compete at the Worlds after stepping to her fifth straight national title in a new African record of 1:28:15 that is under the qualifying cut for Daegu.
Cheruiyot looks to historic 5000m/10,000m double in Korea
Despite producing many reputed distance runners, no Kenyan athlete has ever achieved double golds at the same World Championships, but in Cheruiyot, that statistic is in serious threat of being erased from the history books.
The affable runner who added the African, Diamond Race and Commonwealth 5000m titles to her gold from Berlin topped what was until the latter stages, a race numbing in pace but rich in tactical shadowing with the coveted three Kenyan tickets to Korea at stake.
Osaka 5000m bronze winner, Priscah Jepleting was the first to lay down the hammer with seven laps to go with Cheruiyot, US based NCAA circuit record holder, Sally Kipyego, former World Cross junior champion, Pauline Korikwiang, marathoner Sharon Cherub and Commonwealth champion, Grace Momanyi among the lead group of eight in pursuit.
Kipyego then traded the pace setting duties with Korikwiang and Cheruiyot in the subsequent 800m before Momanyi and Cherop ended their podium interest with a mile left.
At the bell, Cheruiyot with Kipyego in hot chase went through ahead of all as Jepleting and Korikwiang joined them a few paces behind for the medal rush.
As she has perfected, the Berlin 5000m winner started shifting the gears at the back straight with Kipyego responding resolutely until the final curve when Cheruiyot broke away for the line, reaching there arms stretched for victory in 31:55.8.
Kipyego returned 31:57.8 to finally realise her dream of representing her nation as a senior athlete while Jepleting, who returned to the Team Kenya fold at the Punta Umbria World Cross after maternal break taking bronze in 31:59.1.
“I believe I have the strength to win the double in Daegu. The 10,000m final is on the first day and we have another four before the 5000m preliminaries start. I have prepared well for this and winning the 10,000m here today is a big step,” Cheruiyot said in the aftermath of her win.
“I’m always chasing history and winning both races in Daegu would leave me with only the Olympic gold as the medal missing from my collection. May be five years after that, I could consider closing my track career and going to marathon,” she added.
“I’m just really thrilled, I’m just humbled and beyond everything I’m just so excited because this has been a really long journey to make the team. At the bell, I told myself, I’m not missing this team, I’m going to run so hard even if it means taking me to hospital after and I’m so delighted,” Kipyego, who missed selection to the Beijing Olympics, Berlin Worlds and last year Africa Championships and Commonwealth Games gushed.
She disclosed training in Iten for a month before the Trials helped her to adapt to high altitude racing as she looks forward to mix it with the best in Korea.
Jepleting is most likely to bag the fourth slot with defending World champion at the distance, Linet Masai, who also habours the double dream in Daegu, already assured of her place as titleholder. Masai opted for the 5000m at this event.
No major upsets yet
Just like Day 1, the rest of the action on the track failed to produce any notable upset postponing the drama to the final day on Saturday (16).
In the men’s two-lap semis, all the seeded runners led by World record holder, David Rudisha, who won his race in 1:45.3, made the cut for the final.
“Today, I decided to push my body more than yesterday and I’m happy it responded well. Overall, my desire remains to prove that I can win gold at the World Championships and tomorrow, I’m aiming at completing half the job by making our team,” Rudisha who is carrying a slight strain in his ankle said.
Commonwealth champion and stable mate Boaz Lalang, Worlds silver winner, Alfred Kirwa, World junior titleholder, David Mutinda, Africa bronze winner and Jackson Kivuva will also contest the three slots up for grabs.
In the women’s equivalent, Janeth Jepkosgei, who is shorn of any taxing domestic competition owing to the sharp decline of Olympic champion, Pamela Jelimo, who watched from the stands, cruised to the final in 2:02.0.
“I decided not to push the pace here so much to stop spoiling the race for the hopefuls. What is driving me is the desire to win back what I lost in Berlin to Caster Semenya and this time, I’m ready for the challenge. I have been holding back this season waiting for the big one,” the 2007 World titleholder and 2008 Olympics silver winner offered.
Former World Youth champion, Winnie Chebet and Jepkosgei’s protégé, Eunice Sum also booked their places for Saturday’s finale.
A similar tale was replicated in the men 1500m semis as Kenya’s offering to the 2011 top-30 world list led by Nixon Chepseba safely navigated their way to what will be a tantalising final.
Augustine Choge (3:37.7) led Collins Cheboi (3:38.0) and Chepseba (3:38.3) in qualifying from semi 1 before Olympics champion, Asbel Kiprop (3:39.5) did likewise in the other as Daniel Kipchirchir Komen (3:39.6) and world junior titleholder, Caleb Mwangangi (3:39.9) completed the 1-2-3.
Commonwealth champion, Silas Kiplagat (3:38.6) and 2008 Africa champion, Haron Keitany (3:40.40) also made the grade by finishing fourth in their respective races.
With Kenya striving to make a mark on the shorter distances in Korea, the day was peppered by the sad news of the demise of 1991 World Championships 200m semi-finalist, Kennedy Ondieki, at 44.
Commonwealth 400m champion, Mark Mutai and University of Texas, El Paso runner, Anderson Mureta, who was in the country’s 4X400m relay team that bagged silver at the African Championships are in good stead of competing in the individual lap-race in Daegu.
Mureta was the fastest on the day, taking his semi in 45.8 as Mutai won his in 46.4. Jonathan Kibet won the third in 46.7.
“I learnt my lessons in Berlin where I could not proceed from the first round and winning in Delhi has gave me the required confidence I can make the finals in Daegu,” Mutai noted.
“To be honest, I took things lightly in the qualifiers for Berlin and ran very poorly in Delhi. This time, I want to do everything right to get the chance to compete against the best in Daegu,” Mureta, who also won his 200m semi in 21.33 added.
Would he fancy the 200m/400m double? “No, no, no, I’m only interested in the 400m individual race and 4x400m relay, if I saw myself starting next to Usain Bolt in 200m I would have no confidence to compete and I’m not alone in that, he’s so good.”
Africa 400m Hurdles silver winner, Maureen Jelagat (53.6) and Joy Zakari, a finalist in Berlin (52.1) set the agenda in the women’s 400m semis.
Grace nails it
After coming agonisingly close to qualifying for Berlin, Grace Wanjiru whose winning time at the Trials for those World Championships fell short by some two seconds, would seem to have guaranteed her place in Daegu
On an overcast morning in high humidity conditions, Wanjiru obliterated her won African 20km Race Walk record of 1:34:19, posted on her walk to the African title last year, with the 1:28:15 winning effort at the same course on Friday (15).
This is way under the 1:33:30 A-entry standard for Daegu and after catching her breath, she said, “The record is important to me but my biggest dream is to compete at my first World Championships. I just hope Athletics Kenya will include me in the team tomorrow.”
In field highlights
Kenya is not renowned for its command of field events but Caroline Jerotich did improve her 3.05m national record in the women’s Pole vault to 3.10m in Day 1, a mark that is 1.40m shy of the Daegu A-Standard (4.50m) but nonetheless a much appreciated effort.
With all events on Saturday being finals, Nyayo National Stadium is set to reverberate with a capacity crowd who are expected to witness the country’s best offering in athletics complete the rush to Daegu.
Apart from the aforementioned finals, the men’s 10,000m decider that features 61 entries will be the first track final of the day where Boston marathon winner, Geoffrey Mutai, who is also an African bronze medallist at the distance will dress down to give the imposing field a work out.
Josphat Bett, Paul Tanui, Matthew Kisorio, Leonard Komon who feature high-up in the 2011 world list as well as Beijing bronze winner, Micah Kogo are among those lined to start.
Moses Masai, who bagged bronze in Berlin, is sidelined with a recurrence of a knee injury that has checked his running for the last two seasons.
Mutwiri Mutuota (Capital FM) for IAAF
DAY 3 highlights (Sat 17)
20km men race walking final
10000m men final
3000m steeplechase women final
1500m women final
1500m men final
5000m women final
400m men final
5000m men final
800m women final
800m men final
3000m men steeplechase final
- Vivian Cheruiyot in the 10,000m at the 2011 National Bank of Kenya National Athletics Championships (Boniface Okendo ) © Copyright