Last man standing Ferguson Rotich carries Kenya’s hopes
Keith McGhie in Doha
Ferguson Rotich will carry the hopes of a nation on his shoulders in tonight’s men’s 800m final at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
The 32-year-old is Kenya’s sole representative in an event synonymous with success for the country, after compatriots Emmanuel Korir and Ngeno Kipng’etich failed to negotiate Sunday’s semi-finals.
Rotich, the oldest and most experienced of the country’s trio at 32, was forced to come from a long way back with a well-timed last lap dash into second place to book his final berth.
Kenya have won the 800m gold on six previous occasions and the absence of Botswana’s Nijel Amos, fastest in the world this year, through an Achilles tendon injury, increases Rotich’s chances of ending a series of personal near-misses with glory at the staggeringly well air-conditioned Khalifa Stadium.
The Kenyan, second behind Amos in the rankings with a time of 1:42.54 in Monaco last May, has come close to global medals twice before with fourth place in the 2015 World Championships in Beijing and fifth at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics the following year.
All three Kenyans qualified comfortably by winning their heats but only Rotich could manage the tricky task of progressing through the final eliminators as Korir, 24, and 19-year-old 800m rookie Kipng’etich fell by the wayside.
American-based student Korir’s preparations was hampered by a car crash in Kenya less than two months ago, in which he cut his leg and hurt his shoulder, while Kipng’etich admitted he was maybe naive in only his second year of contesting the two-lap race seriously.
“I came well-prepared and know the others’ strengths as we have been running together all year in the Diamond League meetings.
I knew that Vazquez, the Puerto Rican, and Abdalla of Qatar would go off fast and was prepared for a quick semi-final but decided to run my own race and hope that I had the strength to get up into the top two coming down the home straight,” said Rotich.
He added: “This is my fourth championship and I’ll be alone in the final but it’s like that in Diamond League, we are all running for ourselves, and I will be doing my best to bring a medal home for Kenya.”
Today’s programme also sees the medals decided in the men’s pole vault, women’s javelin and men’s 200m, while defending champion Conseslus Kipruto and fellow Kenyans Leonard Bett, Abraham Kibiwot and Benjamin Kigen are involved in 3,000m steeplechase qualification.