Justin Lagat’s writing goal, each week, is to provide us insights into running in Kenya. Justin is also a huge fan of Kenyan athletics, and he should be! His country has a proud tradition of producing fine athletes who honor their country with their sporting exploits.
Kenya wants gold medals in the 10,000m and 5,000m. Well, a British gentleman has been holding those dreams at bay recently. Note that, Justin Lagat, our correspondent from Kenya, does not let that stop him in his dreams for his countrymen and countrywomen!
Helen Obiri, photo by PhotoRun.net
Evaluating the medal prospects for Kenyan athletes in Rio at the middle of the Diamond League season, by Justin Lagat
So far, seven diamond league races are done, seven more remain and resumes with the Stockholm diamond league this week.
Kenyan runners are showing supremacy in their most favorite event; the men’s 3000m steeplechase. Conseslus Kiruto is leading the diamond league point standings with 40 points, Jairus Birech follows him with 20, followed by Paul Koech with 14. There are a total of nine Kenyans among the diamond league’s 12 leaders. The defending champion, Ezekiel Kemboi is not among the diamond league leaders, but he has proven himself to be a championship runner and remains as one of the favorites to win gold in Rio. This is so far one event in which Kenyans have the highest hopes for a medal sweep, or at least two medals if the worst happens.
In the men’s 1500m, Asbel Kiprop has been in great form this year and has remained unbeaten in his races so far as he leads the diamond league standings with 30 points. When he is not there in a major race, Elijah Manangoi who often finishes second to him wins it. He currently follows Kiprop with 22 points. In third place with 7 points ties Silas Kiplagat with Nick Willis of New Zealand and Ryan Gregson of Australia. This is still another race in which Kenyans expect two if not three podium positions. Out of the fourteen leaders, seven are Kenyans.
Hyvin Kiyeng is Kenya’s hope for a gold medal in the women’s 3000m steeplechase. She currently leads the diamond league standings with 26 points and has proven that she can deliver a gold medal in a major championship race given that she is the reigned world champion in the event. With five Kenyans in the list of eleven current diamond league winners in this event, one or two medals can be expected here.
Kenyan men in the 10,000m event, Geoffrey Kamworor, Paul Tanui and Bedan Karoki, finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th during the Beijing world championships last year. They gave Mo Farah a hard run and this time round they are more determined to beat him if they make the team. There are very few high profile 10,000m races and therefore hard to know who is in great shape to win this event. However, two medals can be expected by Kenyans, and one will most likely be a gold medal.
Vivian Cheruiyot led Kenyan women to a 1-2-3-4 finish in the 10,000m during the world championships in Daegu. After some break, she came back last year and won the Beijing world championships. This puts her as the favorite to win gold in Rio. Sally Kipyego, Betsy Saina, Alice Aprot and Joyce Chepkurui are among the women seeking to make the team in this event at the ever competitive Kenyan trials later this month.
Faith Kipyegon is another hope for a gold medal in the women 1500m. This year, she is in great form and leads in diamond league standings with 30 points having won Shanghai, Eugene and Oslo races. It is not yet clear whether Hellen Obiri will choose to compete in the 1500m and improve chances of more medals here, or the 5000m event.
Ferguson Rotich leads the men’s 800m event with 16 points, but he has won one race just like Berian Boris who beat him in Eugene and Bosse Pierre-Abroise who won in Rabat. This leaves the men’s 800m race open without a real favorite to win gold in Rio.
There is less hope for medals in the women’s event with Caster Semenya and Niyonsaba Francine currently dominating the event.
Surprises could happen with new athletes making the Kenyan team in the men and women 5000m events given that Ethiopians are currently leading in the diamond league points.
However, Mercy Cherono has been consistent by finishing second in Doha, Rome and Birmigham.
Julius Yego in the men’s Javelin Throw finished second in Eugene and as he said last year, “you never know when your best throw will happen,” perhaps it may happen in Rio.
Nicholas Bett has finished 6th in two diamond league events; Shanghai and Oslo. Only time will tell if he will surprise the world again in Rio.
The Diamond league races indicates nothing on the probability of Kenyans winning more medals in the marathon events, but more medals are definitely going to come there.