Rudisha aims to negotiate notoriously tough Kenyan trials
01 July 2016, 08:19
Eldoret— So far, so good for David Rudisha at the Kenyan Olympic trials, but the notoriously tough competition dashed the hopes of one big name Thursday when 2012 London Games silver medalist Sally Kigyego only finished sixth in the women's 10,000 meters and didn't make the team for Rio.
Rudisha, the world-record holder and Olympic champion in the 800 meters, qualified for the trials final in his event after winning his semifinal in 1 minute 43.40 seconds. That was Rudisha's best time of a slow season so far.
But at the Kenyan trials, which are always packed with world and Olympic medalists and fiercely contested, times don't matter nearly as much as just getting a place at the Olympics.
"I'm out to make the team, that's my goal, and if we go to the Olympics ... I aspire to great things," Rudisha said.
Rudisha ran in the bunch for 600 meters then kicked ahead with his long strides to win. He will now compete in the final Friday hoping to clinch one of the two automatic places in Rio de Janeiro for the top two finishers in each event. Kenya also gives a wild card place at the Olympics to a third athlete in each event, which is up to track officials' discretion.
Olympic silver medalist Kigyego won't go to Rio after she faded in the 10,000 final in Eldoret, a famed long-distance training town in western Kenya where the high altitude and thin air breeds world-beating runners, but makes competing on the track more difficult than normal. Reigning 10,000 meters world champion Vivian Cheruiyot won the final and Betsy Saina finished second to claim the two automatic places. Recently-crowned African champion Alice Aprot was given the wild card before the trials, meaning the field was racing for just two places.
Cheruiyot is a two-time world champion in the 5,000 and in the 10,000 but is missing an Olympic gold medal. She won silver in the 5,000 and bronze in the 10,000 in London.
Also Thursday, 2015 world silver medalist Caleb Ndiku set up another shot at Olympic and world champion Mo Farah in Rio after winning a ferocious men's 5,000 meters final. Ndiku won a sprint finish over world championships bronze medalist Isiah Koech, who also qualified. Kenya's track federation was yet to announce the wild card in the men's 5,000.
Ezekiel Kemboi, the 3,000 meters steeplechase king and defending Olympic champion, cruised into Friday's final with a comfortable third-place finish in the semifinals. That Kenyan trials final could easily be an Olympic final with Kemboi, former world and Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto, two-time world silver medalist Conseslus Kipruto, Olympic bronze medalist Abel Mutai and Paul Kipsiele Koech, another former Olympic medalist, all battling to be in the top two.
Rudisha faces tough opposition in his final, too. He'll be challenged by, among others, local rival Ferguson Rotich, who has beaten Rudisha twice this year, London bronze medalist Timothy Kitum and two former world junior champions.