Kenyan Rio 2016 Trials set for gripping climax

Ferguson Rotich on his way to winning his men 800m semi final at the AK/...
Ferguson Rotich on his way to winning his men 800m semi final at the AK/Nock Rio Olympics Trials in Eldoret. PHOTO/Stafford Ondego/

The national AK/Nock 2016 Olympics Trials will close Friday with earth-shattering contests as the Race to Rio enters its climax with the naming of the Kenyan team for the Summer Games on Friday.

High standards were set in Thursday’s women 10000m and men 5000m finals with battle lines drawn in the semis of various events setting up the stage for the grand stand finish.

Add the backdrop of the biggest crowd ever witnessed in the history of the Trials and you have a finale that will probably resonate for ages.

Besides the eagerly anticipated mid and long distance races, sprinters and field athletes will be competing to share the limelight.

Having navigated the first hurdles on Thursday, Olympic champions, David Rudisha (men 800m) and the ever-green men 3000m steeplechase living legend, Ezekiel Kemboi, face formidable challengers in their quest to confirm their title defences.

Eldoret will also get a glimpse of other megastars who melted in the crowd on Day One when the likes of Beijing 2008 Olympic winner, Asbel Kiprop and Beijing 2015 world champions, Julius Yego (men Javelin), Hyvin Kiyeng (women 3000m steeple) and Nicholas Bett (men 400m Hurdles) take to the track and field in their events finals.

All eyes will be on the men 3000m steeplechase final Kemboi, ‘Baba Yao’ (The Father) as the crowds chanted will line-up for the chance to defend his title at the Rio Summer Olympics.

Kemboi finished third in 8:35.88 behind winner Alex Kibet who ran 8:33.04 and two-time Worlds silver medallist and his foe turned protégé, Conseslus Kipruto where he looked in complete control, at one time urging the latter not to push hard for the finish.

Key rival Brimin Kipruto, who powered to the Olympics title in Beijing, gave a stern statement of his rich form when he took charge of the in 8:33.5 seconds ahead of London 2012 bronze winner, Abel Mutai and Diamond League winner, Jairus Birech.

Olympic champion and world record holder, ‘King David’ Rudisha clocked a 1:43.4 season’s best in the punishing elevation of 2100 m above sea level to deliver a timely reminder to his local and international pretenders to his throne.

On the domestic front, Ferguson Rotich who has floored him twice in the IAAF Diamond League this season having handed Rudisha his first loss on home soil as a senior last year at the Beijing 2015 Trials is keen to claim the prized scalp of the King.

He did not go out as fast in his semi but he was comfortable in delivering a 1:45.94 victory as 2014 world junior champion, Alfred Kipketer,  took the first semi in 1:45.42 to install himself as the biggest darkhorse.

“I know that people are expecting a lot from me and are keen to watch Rotich and I sweat it out. Rotich has had a great season and it will be an honour if we both make it to the team to represent our nation,’’ Rudisha said of their contest.

Three-time men 1500m champion Kiprop will be in the frontline to secure his place in the team alongside his best friend and training partner Beijing Silver medallist Elijah Managoi who will be looking for his first Olympics ticket.

“This year my season started off well and have got no complains. If I make it to the team it will be a great honour since my family will get a chance to watch me before I travel,’’ Manangoi stressed.

World Javelin champion Yego will be looking forward to deliver a huge throw at home after an unconvincing season as a boost ahead of Rio with recently-coined African bronze winner; Alex Toroitich seeking to follow the ‘You Tube Man’ to Brazil.

Yego has been trying to replicate his historic Beijing throw of 92.72m but has only managed a year best of 84.86m at Stockholm Diamond League.

Bett has been struggling for form since the beginning of this year’s Diamond League and has all to prove in the face of stiff challenge in the men 400m Hurdles from African champion, Boniface Mucheru and twin brother, Aron Koech who took the third medal in Durban last week.

Having been denied wildcard entry in 10000m, Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor will have to battle a loaded field to make Rio 2016.

The two-time world half champion has his closest home rival and Beijing fourth finisher, Bedan Karoki, worlds bronze medallist, Paul Tanui, 2014 Africa Cross champion, Leonard Barsoton and 2010 Africa silver medallist, Vincent Yator to contend with.

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Story By Charity Wanja
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