World record-holder David Rudisha suffered his first home-soil defeat since winning the Olympic title three years ago as Ferguson Rotich won the 800m at the Athletics Kenya National Trials for the World Championships and All-African Games in Nairobi on Saturday (1).
The men’s two-lap final aside, most of the other favourites lived up to expectation in the Kenyan capital.
World champions Asbel Kiprop and Eunice Sum won the 1500m and 800m respectively, while African record-holder Julius Yego won the javelin and 2014 Diamond Race winner Jairus Birech triumphed in the steeplechase.
Ferguson upsets Rudisha
Fresh from two defeats to Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos on the IAAF Diamond League circuit, Rudisha impressed in Friday’s semi-finals when he ran 1:44.2.
In the final, the 2011 world champion looked virtually untouchable in the first 600m, opening a significant gap over the chasing pack. But Rotcih struck on the homestretch as Rudisha began to tie up, the 25-year-old forging ahead to win in a season’s best of 1:43.60.
“Beating Rudisha at home will motivate me to make it to the podium at the World Championships,” said Rotich, who was part of the Kenyan team that finished second in the distance medley relay at the IAAF World Relays earlier this year. “I’m very happy to make the team.”
Behind him, the Rudisha just about managed to hold off world junior champion Alfred Kipketer, 1:43.89 to 1:44.07, as both made the team for Beijing.
“I’m struggling in the last 100m and that is what I will work on,” said Rudisha. “The three weeks I have ahead of the World Championships are enough. I’m 90% fit.”
Kiprop delivered the most commanding display on the Kasarani track when he attacked a deep field from behind to win the 1500m.
The two-time world champion won in 3:34.03 and his winning margin of 0.41 would have been even bigger had he not slowed to offer a salute to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was watching in the stands.
“It was my dream that one day I shall return to Beijing and hear the national anthem played for me and that is what I will work so hard to achieve,” said Kiprop, who was awarded the gold medal from the 2008 Olympics in the Chinese capital after Rashid Ramzi was stripped of the title.
Silas Kiplagat, who took silver behind Kiprop in Daegu, and Kenyan champion Elijah Manangoi finished second and third respectively in 3:34.44 and 3:34.46.
In the women’s 1500m, Commonwealth champion Faith Kipyegon was chased hard by world 5000m silver medallist Mercy Cherono, but held on to win in 4:01.85 – the fastest time ever achieved at altitude – to Cherono’s 4:02.21.
Cherono, whose place on the team in the 5000m is guaranteed as the 2014 Diamond Race winner, was testing her speed. Third-placed Nancy Chepkwemoi (4:02.21) and Violah Lagat (4:05.98) in fourth will join Kipyegon in China.
Sum and Birech book spots for Beijing
Sum, still unbeaten this season, extended her unblemished record with a dominant 1:59.46 victory in the 800m ahead of 2007 world champion Janeth Jepksogei, who was second in 2:00.42.
“It is going to be hard at the World Championships,” said Sum. “We have people like Ajee Wilson who are very tough, but running with Janeth really helps and our aim is to qualify to the finals first.”
Birech continued his scintillating form with an 8:19.55 victory in the 3000m steeplechase over world silver medallist Conseslus Kipruto (8:22.95) with 2007 world champion Brimin Kipruto (8:22.95) closing out the podium.
Three-time world champion Ezekiel Kemboi was just outside the podium in 8:24.42 with all four making the World Championships team.
“This team can win all the medals if we work together,” said Kemboi. “Personally, I’m happy to defend my title and I will work to ensure I do.”
But Birech made it clear that he has his eye on just one medal in Beijing. “This is my year and there will be another name in the gold medal,” said the African champion. “I have worked so hard and winning these trials will lift me.”
After numerous clashes on the IAAF Diamond League circuit this year, Hyvin Jepkemoi and Virginia Nyambura resumed their rivalry in the women’s 3000m steeplechase. In a close finish, Jepkemoi came out on top, winning in 9:33.42 to finish 0.27 ahead of Nyambura.
Rosefline Chepngetich, the 2013 world youth champion, set a PB of 9:35.75 to finish third. Milcah Chemos was forced to miss the trials due to injury and will be Kenya’s only reigning world champion unable to defend their title in Beijing.
Kamworor wins quality 10,000m
World cross-country and half-marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor produced the fastest time ever achieved at altitude to win the 10,000m from world cross-country silver medallist Bedan Karoki and world bronze medallist Paul Tanui.
Despite running the last seven laps with no one else in sight and talking among each other, they still managed to run 27:11.89, 27:15.33 and 27:18.45 respectively.
Three-time world champion Vivian Cheruiyot unfurled a commanding last-lap burst to clinch victory in the women’s 10,000m final, powering past Betsy Saina to win in 32:58.4.
“It’s my hope to reclaim the world title and I’m confident with the girls we have here it can be done,” said Cheruiyot. “I knew I had the kick and the conditions were perfect and I’m so happy to return to the World Championships.”
Olympic silver medallist Sally Kipyego was awarded a place on the team, despite pulling out with cramps three laps from the finish.
Julius Yego was unchallenged in the men’s javelin, producing a best effort of 83.10m.
“After Birmingham, I had a slight injury that affected my technique but I’m now throwing over 80 and the World Championships will depend on who throws the best on the day. I’m going for it to show our people in Kenya we can have other good athletes outside the track and marathons,” the You Tube Man asserted.
Mathew Sawe produced the other top field event performance, winning the high jump with a national record of 2.25m. Elsewhere, Nicholas Bett impressed in the 400m hurdles, clocking 48.29 to win by nearly a second.
Mutwiri Mutuota and Alex Isaboke (Capital FM) for the IAAF