Kenya's moment to mettle at the London Olympics beckoned as the country's athletic breed took to the tracks friday firing early warnings to rivals.
Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto, Ezekiel Kemboi and Abel Mutai will all line up in the men’s 3000m steeplechase final on Sunday while Joyce Sakari impressed with a semi-final qualification in the women’s 400m at the Olympic stadium.
Kipruto warmed up for his title defence with an easy but confident run in the second heat, the slowest of the three rounds in 8:28.62.
“I feel good my body is ok and I am 100 per cent ready to defend my gold title. It’s a good track it should be a good final,” Kipruto said.
Kemboi, looking to put behind assault allegations that almost ruined his Olympic preparations chose an unusual lane seven to finish behind Ethiopian Gari Roba(8:20.68), synonymous with his witty character. Kemboi, without his head turning haircut that he has spotted at the past Olympics and world championships returned 8:20.97.
Frenchman Mekhissi-Benabbad Mahiedine, the Kenyans leading threat for the gold in their traditional race topped the qualifying rounds in 8:16.23 from her one ahead of American Evan Jager (8:16.61) while Abel Mutai, the reigning African champion qualified third in 8:17.70.
“I am disappointed Kipsiele(Paul Koech) is not here this is the race of the world's best steeplechasers and it would have been nice to race against him and the other Kenyans,” decried Mekhissi-Benabbad, the silver winner from Beijing.
Kipsiele, the fastest man this season(7:54.31) has often failed to sparkle at high altitude contests missed out on Olympics qualification as Athletics Kenya abolished wild cards for its track runners.
Sakari, the lone 400m qualifier impressed in her qualifying heat with a season best of 51.85 seconds behind American Francena Mccorory (50.78) and local favourite Christine Ohuruogu(50.80).
World champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana ran the day's fastest time of 50:40 from the first heat as American Sanya Richards crossed the line first in 51.78.
The two Kenyan hurdlers Benson Mucheru and Vincent Kosgei found the going tough bolting out in the first round of the 400m Hurdles. Mucheru ranked sixth in a slow 50.33 while Kosgei finished seventh in 50.80.
Evelyn Watta in London
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