‘The Buffalo’ Mwangangi charges through to Rio
Caleb ‘The Buffalo’ Mwangangi will get another chance to charge at British double distance champion, Mo Farah when he timed his finish to perfection to win the brutal men 5000m final as Day One of the Kenyan Trials for Rio 2016 wrapped up in Eldoret.
The Commonwealth titleholder powered to victory in a titanic contest over the homestretch to stop the clock at an impressive 13:37.2 to edge out Moscow 2013 Worlds bronze medallist, Isaiah Kiplangat Koech, by only four hundredth of a second.
With the two guaranteed automatic places in Rio, selectors will decide on Friday whether third placed Cyrus Ruto who led the challengers’ home in 13:39.1 will join the squad that saw Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor pull out at the start.
The two-time World Half Marathon winner and men 10000m silver medallist at the 2015 Beijing Worlds was planning to run the shorter distance for speed since he was expecting wildcard selection for Rio but Athletics Kenya declined meaning he has to fight for his place on Friday morning.
While his entry would have spiced up the contest in no small part; his absence did not stop an intriguing battle for Rio unfolding in the last race of Thursday’s programme as Mwangangi proved his undoubted class in the end.
“The race was not easy; it had a lot of challenges because of altitude. I was born in low altitude so I was experiencing a lot of challenge because of weather. I was out on injury for long but right now, I’m getting back and the pain has disappeared.
“I’m getting strong so, I’m expecting to do better when I get to Rio. I need to do more of speed and power training to become stronger in the final kick because I know the Ethiopians are very hot right and Farah has been a big challenge to Kenyans,” the 2014 World Indoor champion said.
With three laps to go Ruto injected the decisive turn of pace at the front that left only five put in a position to vie for the podium.
Mwangangi, Kiplangat and Olympics bronze winners, Edwin Soi (2008) and Thomas Longosiwa (2012) were the heavyweights in contention.
After the bell, the contenders had formed a log-jam as they jostled, pushed and spiked each other in a bid to secure the inside lane but Mwangangi steered out of trouble by moving to the outside as they entered the back straight.
At this stage, Kiplangat had locked the inside and was motoring away for the finish but Mwangangi caught up with him and ran shoulder to shoulder through the final curve to the home straight.
With the capacity crowd up on its feet, the Commonwealth champion sustained his momentum with even strides until the line and was soon giving the fans a rendition of his famous ‘Buffalo Horns’ celebration.
However, the race had taken much from him since he did not dance as hard as he did when he brought home the World Indoor and Commonwealth titles in 2014 but his message was clear to his challengers in Rio- he is in a position to gore them for gold.
Behind the top three, veterans Longosiwa (13:40.7) and Soi (13:41.4) followed each other home to all but end their dream of returning to the biggest stage in sport.
Mwangangi and Kipangat joined world champion, Vivian Cheruiyot and US based Betsy Saina who completed the 1-2 in the women 10000m that was the first final of the day as the qualifiers for Rio.
Additional reporting by Charity Wanja
1.Caleb Mwangangi 13:37.2
2. Isiah Kiplagat 13:37.6
3. Cyrus Ruto 13:39.1
4. Thomas Longosiwa 13:40.7
5. Edwin Cheruiyot Soi 13:41.4
6. Mangata Ndiwa 13:42.2
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