Caleb Ndiku leading men’s 5000m final in the final la, photo by Justin Lagat
The Kenyan Olympic Trials are being held in Eldoret, Kenya. As our Kenyan correspondent, Justin Lagat, noted to me in a short note, “the crowds are large and we have been standing all day.” Here are some of the highlights of day one from Justin Lagat.
Caleb Mwangangi and Vivian Chruiyot book their tickets to Rio Olympic Games on the first day of Kenya’s Olympic trials, by Justin Lagat
The Kipchoge Keino stadium in Eldoret was electric today with cheering and excitement as athletes battled for slots in Kenya’s Olympic team to Rio.
The first event in the morning was the women’s 10,000m final. Eleven athletes who wanted to make the team as much as the other turned up at the starting point. Only the first two to cross the finish line were guaranteed a place into the team and a third athlete was to be given a wild card by the selection officials.
Given the caliber of the runners invited for the trials, the pack kept together for most of the early stages of the race before Betsy Saina took the initiative to crank up the pace and try to shake off some athletes from contention. Only two athletes began to drop, but the rest hung on. Vivian Cheruiyot came to the front and continued the relentless pace for a while before Irene Cheptai took over the pacing for some time too. It was as though the three athletes had one idea in common; to get a smaller leading pack and increase their chances of making the team.
With about two kilometers to go, Vivian Cheruiyot moved to the front and again set the pace higher leaving the field following in a single file. In no time, Cheruiyot was safe at the front and the focus shifted to Irene Cheptai and Betsy Saina as they stuck together in a chasing pack of two. Cheptai was leading with Saina on her heels. Then, with about three laps to go, Saina moved to overtake. Cheptai tried to resist for a moment, then moved towards the outside lanes and fell down. The first aid personnel rushed to attend to her.
Cheruiyot crossed the finish line to win comfortably in 31:36.37, Saina followed to seal the guaranteed positions to the Olympic team in 32:04.83. Gladys Chesir came third in 32:17.35.
The hot afternoon session saw the favorite athletes in the men’s 3000m steeplechase; Ezekiel Kemboi, Brimin Kipruto, Jairus Birech, Conseslus Kipruto and Paul Koech sail through to the finals. It was the same for David Rudisha, Ferguson Rotich, Leornard Kosencha, Timothy Kitum and Jackson Kivuva in the men’s 800m.
Having not featured at any recent competition, Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku came back to competition in style today by winning the men’s 5000m finals in 13:37.2 and booking himself a place in the Olympic team. Isaiah Koech was second in 13:37.6 while Cyrus Ruto took third in 13:39.1. The race was run in the hot afternoon weather and Ndiku stayed patient at the back of the pack only moving to the front with two laps to go.
“I am not promising anything for Rio, but I am telling my competitors to expect a tough challenge from me. One thing I know is that I am still fresh having not done any competitions recently while most of my competitors are tired,” Ndiku said to the press after his win.