Nairobi, Kenya – While it will take the USA the better part of ten days to select their complete Olympic track and field team, the Kenyans essentially do it in one three-hour stretch. Today, at Nyayo Stadium in overcast Nairobi, Athletics Kenya staged eight events to select what promises to be a medal-hauling machine at the London Games. Considering the results, they may have to charter a separate carrier to bring back the hardware. By afternoon’s end the fastest times ever run at altitude were achieved in three events, the men’s and women’s 800 meters, and the men’s 5000.
Billed as “the race the world was waiting to see”, the men’s 800 meters closed the show in high style, and lived up to its hype. After 2010 African, 2011 World, and now prohibitive 2012 Olympic champion David Rudisha galloped to the fastest 800 meters ever run at altitude (1:42:12, besting his own 1:42.3 from the 2010 African Championships, also here at Nyayo Stadium) even his coach, a man who has seen a lot of talent in his day, was left a little breathless.
“And he had to move from lane three,” said Brother Colm O’Connell after his pupil’s A+ performance. “He’s not used to running out of lane three. But he can handle any situation.”
We may be used to seeing Rudisha tuck in behind his personal pacer Sammy Tangui on the Samsung Diamond League tour, or Matt Scherer recently at the Adidas GP in New York City, but today the world record holder moved easily to the front, passing 400 meters under 50-seconds, then closed in sub-:51 to mark his fitness for the August Games in London.
Behind came 19 year-old Anthony Chemut in a PR 1:43.96 (better than his 1:44.73 in Eugene June 2nd), and another newcomer Timothy Kimut in 1:45.19. The results mark the changing of the guard here in Kenya for the two lap race.
There were a total of eight races contested at these Trials, men’s and women’s 800, 1500, 3000m steeplechase, and 5000m. The marathon and 10,000m teams had already been decided, and the remainder of the Olympic schedule, sprints and field events, don’t contain enough Kenyan quality to warrant a Trials. Yet one wonders how that might ever change if there isn’t a platform offered to contest the sprints and field events at the Olympic Trials level.
Notwithstanding, it was a tidy meet held in front of a boisterous crowd of 12,000 or so spectators including some of Kenya’s greatest past champions. Besides Olympic Committee chairman Kipchoge Keino, other luminaries on hand included Paul Tergat, Moses Tanui, Douglas Wakihuri, Paul Ereng, and Noah Ngeny. After an entertaining pre-show put on by a cast of colonial-era jesters, the meet got underway at 10:30 a.m. (more…)