Kenya steps out for Doha Worlds glory

Saturday, September 28th, 2019 00:00 |
2013 World 800m champion Eunice Sum leads the pack during the Rio Olympics final in 2016. She will lead the Kenyan hunt for medals as action begins in Doha on Saturday. Photo/PD/FILE

Keith McGhie in Doha

Kenyan team manager Joseph Kiget insists that his 46-strong squad has a hunger to improve on their notable performances in London two years ago.

The East African nation scooped 11 medals, five gold, two silver and four bronze in the English capital and Kiget’s confident prediction could be backed up by a genuine belief after Saturday’s action in Doha which includes heats of the men’s and women’s 800m plus the women’s 10,000m final.

Gone are the days when double Olympic champion and World Record holder David Rudisha would enter the arena with the engraver already etching his name on the gold medal but in Emanuel Korir, Ferguson Rotich and Ng’eno Kipng’etich the country has three candidates with the capability to grace the to step of the podium.

Korir is still to fulfil his undoubted potential on the big stage yet stands as the sixth fastest man ever in the metric half-mile and second quickest Kenyan in history behind Rudisha, with a mark of one minute, 42.05 seconds at London’s Olympic Stadium last year.

Rotich is second on this year’s world list with 1:42.54, so also has the credentials to be in the mix when the semi-finals are run on Sunday and the final staged next Tuesday.

The duo will be joined by the lesser-known Kipng’etich who stunned both of them to win a sprint to the line in the Kenyan trials at the Nyayo National Stadium.

The 2013 World champion Eunice Sum is fast returning to her best and, although beaten by Jackie Wambui in the trials, will be Kenya’s sole representative in Qatar after the 2018 World U18 champion fell foul of the recently imposed testosterone regulations which have kept twice Olympic and three-times world title winner Caster Semenya out of the picture.

Sum, who also won the Commonwealth Games title in 2014, is in the 1:58 bracket again and could have the guile and finishing pace to shock American favourite Ajee Wilson should they both make it through two rounds and into Monday’s final.

Hellen Obiri is another vastly experienced campaigner with eyes on adding to her glittering trophy cabinet.

Diverse performances

Obiri won the 5,000m in London and completed her set of indoor, outdoor and cross country world crowns with victory on a muddy grass course at Aarhus, Denmark at the end of March.

Obiri only contested the 27-lap distance on the track for the first time in Nairobi earlier this year before coming second behind Agnes Tirop at the Kenyan championships.

Tirop, another cross country specialist, won 10,000m bronze at the 2017 World Championships and has been in good form this summer, as demonstrated by her 5,000m performance in London in July, where she climbed to sixth on the world all-time list with a time of 14:20.68.

Rosemary Wanjiru completes the Kenyan medal assault in a race where the late withdrawal of defending champion Almaz Ayana and some superb but incredibly diverse performances by the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan, including a recent victory against Obiri over 5000m, have thrown the tipsters into some confusion.

Kiget, in charge of the national team at a major championship for the first time, said:

“We have got some youngsters who came through the trials and have earned their place here.

“We have come along the way following our performance in London and we would like to sustain that and even improve upon it if possible.

“It is still a strong team and quite capable of doing very well in these championships.”

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