Rudisha, Rotich, Kipketer breeze through to 800m semis

Kenya's David Lekuta Rudisha (C) leads the field in the Men's 800m Round 1 heat during ...
Kenya's David Lekuta Rudisha (C) leads the field in the Men's 800m Round 1 heat during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 12, 2016. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Olympics champion and world record holder, David Rudisha lay down a marker when he kicked-off his title defence with a dominant 1:45.09- gun to tape-victory in the heats of the men 800m at Rio 2016 Olympics on Friday.

Compatriots Alfred Kipketer and Ferguson also punched their tickets by winning and finishing second in their races to ensure all three Kenyans trooped to the semis in the preliminaries where the world record holder posted the fastest time of the day.

The biggest shock of the round saw Botswana’s silver medallist, Nijel Amos, crash out of the competition after finishing second from last in heat five after terribly miscalculating his charge in the homestretch.

Foul weather at the start of track and field competition at the Olympic Stadium in Rio had brought out concerns about the ability of the world champion to excel but he dispelled such notions when he controlled his race from the start and finished with so much to spare.

Rudisha, who came to Rio as the world leader and the man to beat opened his huge strides in a fluid performance having led through 400m in 52.36 and 600m in 1:18.19.

In his slipstream, South Africa’s Rynardt Van Rensburg (1:45.67) in his season’s best and Great Britain’s Michael Rimmer (1:45.99) filed home to take the next automatic slots to Saturday’s semi finals.

Before him, Rotich who was embroiled in a scandal that saw sprint coach John Anzrah sent home, booked his place in the semis after finishing second in his race.

Starting from behind, the fourth finisher at the Beijing Worlds attacked from the outside in the final as they came for the homestretch to nail his passage.

His race was won by European champion and Beijing silver winner, Adam Kszczot who in 1:45.83 after the Pole took charge of proceedings after the bell when Colombia’s Rafith Rodríguez took the field through 400m in 52.79.
Rotich came home in 1:46.00 with Puerto Rico’s Andrés Arroyo closing the top three in 1:46.17 to join them in the second round.

Heat 4 was taken by the 2014 World Junior champion, Kipketer who stunned both Rotich and Rudisha to victory at the Kenyan trials in 1:46.61, the slowest race of the opening round.

The young Kenyan also led throughout, crossing 400m at 53.52 before taking charge of the inside lane and easing off as the line approached in an assured performance.

Denmark’s Andreas Bube (1:46.67) and Algeria’s Yassine Hethat (1:46.81) took second and third to book their slots in the semis.

In the opening heat, Djibouti’s Ayanleh Suleiman (1:45.48) crossed the line ahead of Moscow World Championships silver winner Amel Tuka (1:45.72) with American Boris Berian rounding the top three in 1:45.87.

Algeria’s Olympic 1500m champion, Taoufik Makhloufi who is seeking a double here, won the pedestrian Heat 5 in 1:49.17 that produced the first stunning upset of track and field action when Amos, the Commonwealth titleholder ran 1:50.46 to exit the competition.

Morocco’s Mostafa Smaili was second in 1:49.29 with Italy’s Giordano Benedetti dipping for the last semi slot in 1:49.40 as Amos paid the steep price for failing to dominate a race from the start.

Last year, the Botswana star sensationally crashed out of the semi final won by Rudisha after another shocking miscalculation.

In the last preliminary showdown, Ethiopian 2013 world champion, Mohammed Aman ran 1:48.33 to qualify behind French hopeful, Pierre-Ambroise Bosse who took the race in 1:48.12 as Algeria’s Amine Belferar came for third in 1:48.40.

The medal race will be on Monday.

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Story By Mutwiri Mutuota
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