Kenya prepare for Worlds without Rudisha
07 August 2013, 13:02
Nairobi - Kenya is playing down the absence of 800m star David Rudisha at the upcoming World Championships in Moscow, a year after heartbreak at poor performances at the London Olympics.
Officials say the enforced absence through injury of the Olympic and world champion -- and two other key athletes -- will not have a serious impact on the country's medal hopes.
The Kenyans travel to Moscow with a depleted line-up after three gold medallists from Daegu two years ago, including Rudisha, were forced to withdraw from the August 10-18 event.
Head coach Sammy Rono accepted that it could be difficult to repeat the success of 2011 2011, when Kenya scooped 17 medals, including seven golds.
"It is going to be tricky. We are already minus the three gold medallists, Vivian Cheruiyot, who won both the 5,000m and 10,000m, and Abel Kirui, the two-time marathon champion, and now Rudisha," he said.
But Rono believed that the 48-strong squad, which blends youth with experience, will still rise to the occasion.
Without Rudisha, pressure will be on teenagers Ferguson Rotich and Jeremia Mutai, who finished second and third at the Kenyan trials and were picked alongside London Olympics semi-finalist, Anthony Chemut, in the 800m.
"The youngsters are very excited. They have been training hard and studying the videos of Rudisha and they want to go on the same route he went on... They can go all the way to the final," Rono said.
The trio will, however, face a tough challenge from fellow teenagers Nijel Amos of Botswana, who finished second behind Rudisha in London, and Ethiopia's Mohammed Aman, the reigning World indoor 800m champion, who holds the world's second fastest time of 1min 43.33secs.
Seventeen years after Venuste Niyongabo won the first gold medal for Burundi in the 5,000m at the Atlanta Olympics, 20-year compatriot Francine Niyonsaba is highly fancied in the women's 800m to become only the second medallist from the tiny central African nation.
The African champion and Burundian national record holder dominated the season's Shanghai, Paris and Prefontaine Classic Diamond League races, and currently holds the world leading time of 1:56.72 ahead of Russia's world and Olympic champion, Mariya Savinova.
Kenya's experienced runners include world and Olympic 1,500m and 3,000m steeplechase champions, Asbel Kiprop and Ezekiel Kemboi, plus defending women's marathon champion, Edna Kiplagat.
Kenyan men runners have dominated the 1,500m for the last two seasons, but while world champion Asbel Kiprop, silver medallist Silas Kiplagat and third fastest man, Nixon Chepseba, failed to deliver in London, they have been selected again.
Their main challenge comes from Ethiopia, who are looking to dominate the men's and women's distance events.
Veteran Ezekiel Kemboi will attempt to become the first Kenyan to win three consecutive steeplechase world titles and the two-time Olympic champion showed he was still at the peak of his powers when he returned a world-leading time of 7:59.03 at the Paris Diamond League in July.
The exciting young Conseslus Kipruto, a former world junior champion, has beaten him three times this season, however.
Moscow may signal the arrival of the next generation of Ethiopian distance runners to take over from Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele, and among the most promising are Hagos Gebrhiwet and Yenew Alamirew.
Gebrhiwet, 19, started the year by winning the World Cross Country junior title in Poland before clinching the Doha and New York Diamond League 5,000m races.
Alamirew, currently second in the 5,000m Diamond League rankings behind Gebrhiwet, holds a 3,000m personal best of 7:27.26 and will be the man to beat in Moscow.
Britain's 5,000m world defending champion Mo Farah lost his first outdoor race in two years, finishing second to Kenya's Edwin Soi at the Prefontaine Classic in June, and he will have the Kenyan and a host of Ethiopians to contend with if he is to repeat his London Olympic distance double.
Three-time Olympic medallist Tirunesh Dibaba is unbeaten over 10,000m, and with double Kenyan defending champion Vivian Cheruiyot having taken time off to have a baby, Dibaba's compatriot Meseret Defar is her main threat as she eyes a seventh world gold.
The top Kenyan in the race is Gladys Cherono, the African 5,000m and 10,000m champion.