Commonwealth titleholder and Worlds 1500m silver medallist Silas Kiplagat especially considering the Kenyan capital’s altitude (1661m/5450ft) delivered a jaw-dropping 1:44.8 performance in the men 800m final to sign off the Kenya Prisons Championships on Friday (4).
Coming to the event for the third year running as the headline act, Kiplagat overcame the punishing elevation and overcast weather at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium to build on his 1:47.1 victory during the heats on Thursday (3).
The other roaring performance of the final day of the annual meeting was recorded in the corresponding women’s race where Lydia Wafula, billed to be the next Kenyan female two-lap sensation, crushed the 17-year-old meet record when she won in 2:01.9.
For someone who came to the two-day event under a lot of pressure as the star act of the show, Silas Kiplagat was nonchalant as he set about giving the crowd a performance to behold when he stepped on the red tartan for the men 800m final.
Having won his heat in drenching rain with the fastest mark of the round, 1:47.1, the Daegu silver medal winner went round the opening lap among the pack but at the back straight, he cranked up the pace with defending champion, Reuben Bett (1:44.79 PB) giving frantic chase.
As heavy clouds hovered over the stadium, the contest was effectively over with 110m to go when Kiplagat stepped on the gas to leave his nearest challenger in his slipstream and the crowd cheering when a meet record of 1:44.8 was achieved.
Bett arrived home in 1:46.0 for second with Isaac Kipketer coming in third in 1:47.2 to share the podium with the winner who will race his first 1500m of the season at the Samsung Diamond League opener in Doha next week (11 May).
“I learnt from my mistakes in Daegu and that is why I chose to run in the 800m here, Kitale and Mumias so that I could build on my speed. I lost the world title by a margin of seconds since I was not quick enough on the final sprint,” said Kiplagat.
But Kiplagat admitted that he faces a stern test to make the Kenyan team for his first Olympics in London in the summer.
“Everyone is strong like you can see the team for marathoners, the World record holder (Patrick) Makau was given a wildcard but he is now not in the team. I cannot say that I’m the best, I’m not the best and there are emerging athletes.
“Guys like Asbel (Kiprop), Nixon (Chepseba) and (Augustine) Choge are all aiming for the same thing but I will be very happy if I get to represent my country at my first Olympics and I’m working hard with my coach to make this happen,” he added.
Kiplagat’s performance invited rave reviews from those present led by Athletics Kenya (AK) boss and IAAF Council Member, Isaiah Kiplagat.
“Running in an Olympics qualifying time here and in such bad weather is a commendable performance but he has to maintain that form to gain selection in the national team, there is no question about that,” remarked Kiplagat.
Meet record for Wafula
In the women’s 800m race, Wafula burst away from titleholder, Sylvia Chesebe with 200m to go as her powerful strides saw her stop the clock in 2:01.9 for the title and meet record to erase the watching 2009 Boston Marathon winner, Salina Kosgei’s 2:03.8 previous best run in 1995.
“I was hoping to do well and run my personal best and this has come true today. I have been training since November and I was ready for this. I thank God and I hope I will fulfil the expectations placed on me,” said the runner who is being talked as a challenger to the Olympic champion, Pamela Jelimo and silver medallist, Janeth Jepkosgei duopoly.
“May the best woman win at the Trials,” said Wafula who has returned to competition after a maternity break.
Kambua storms back
Since winning the World Junior 3000m Steeplechase title at the 2008 edition in Bydgoszcz, Christine Kambua has failed to stamp her authority on the senior ranks but a dominant 10:11.8 victory here is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Detaching herself from the field in the fifth lap, Japan based Kambua completed her procession to her first Prisons title as Nancy Kimaiyo (10:26.2) and Nancy Nzisa (10:46.7) trailed for second and third.
Lawrence Kemboi (8:38.4) edged out Michael Kimutai (8:39.6) in the last 50m to bag the men’s 3000m steeple crown.
In the 1500m races, Daegu 10,000m sixth finisher, Thomas Longosiwa (3:41.0) was relegated to silver by Kibet Bargentuny (3:40.7) as he sought to build speed ahead of the Doha Samsung Diamond League, while the women’s race was won by Lucia Muite (4:26.0) who pipped Tabitha Wambui (4:26.3) to the line.
Two-time Olympics silver medallist and twice World marathon champion, Catherine Ndereba (34:54.5) was fourth in the women’s 10,000m won by the unheralded guest runner, Priscilla Lorchima (33:52.0) in a largely pedestrian affair.
“I have faith that this is the year Kenya will win her first gold medal in the women’s marathon since we have selected the best at the moment but they must work as a team,” Ndereba said of the London line-up that includes London winner Mary Keitany, World champion Edna Kiplagat, and Daegu silver winner Priscah Jeptoo.
The men 5000m race was won in 13:40.0 by Timothy Kiptoo, who bagged the series Jackpot at the domestic cross country series in February, ahead of Silas Muturi (13:47.5) and John Mwangangi (13:48.4) who won his second medal of the championships.
On Day 1, Isaac Korir and Faridah Chelanga helped themselves to the men’s 10,000m and women’s 5000m titles.
In the first track final of the day, Korir upset last year’s Africa Cross Country champion and Prisons titleholder Mwangangi after motoring away from the challengers to stop the clock in 28:25.2.
Mwangangi crossed the line 22 seconds adrift in 28:47.5 as Charles Cheruiyot came through with 28:51.1 on the timer to take bronze.
In the women’s 5000m decider, a close affair panned out as Kaptagat based Chelanga, Jane Mwikali and Margaret Waithera came to the bell vest-to-vest before Mwikali hit the front with 200m to go but just before the homestretch, Chelanga took over and other than a meek attempt at a response from the latter, she sealed the race in 16:10.0.
The selected Kenya Prisons team will be sent to camp next week to prepare for the Nationals and subsequent Trials with the focus shifting to the Kenya Defence Force Championships next week.
Mutwiri Mutuota (Capital FM) for the IAAF
100m: 1. Ibrahim Muya 10.5; 2. Tera Langat 10.7; 3. Laban Simotwo 10.8; 200m: 1. Ibrahim Muya 21.4; 2. Vincent Koskei 21.7; 3. Laban Simotwo 22.0; 400m: 1. Collin Omae 46.8, 2. Moses Kertich 47.3, 3. David Chemjor 47.5, 800m: 1. Silas Kiplagat 1:44.8, 2. Reuben Bett 1:46.0, 3. Isaac Kipketer 1:47.2, 1500m: 1. Kibet Bargetuny 3:40.7, 2. Thomas Longosiwa 3:41.0, 3. Dominic Mutuku 3:41.6, 5000m: Timothy Kiptoo 13:40.0, 2. Silas Muturi 13:47.5, 3. John Mwangangi 13:48.4; 10,000m: 1. Isaac Korir 28:25.2; 2. John Mwangangi 28:47.5; 3. Charles Cheruiyot 28:51.1; 3000m Steeplechase: 1. Lawrence Kemboi 8:38.4; 2. Michael Kimutai 8:39.6; 3. Patrick Churkor 8:43.0