Excitement high as athletes jostle for Olympics tickets at Kasarani
After almost half a decade, Kenya’s top talents in track and field are set for another showdown at the Olympics trials that kick off on Thursday at the Kasarani Stadium.
Since time immemorial, Kenyan trials have been regarded as ‘Mini Oympic’ owing to its intensity, intrigues and subsequently Kenya’s dominance in the global extravaganza.
While it is unfortunate that spectators roars will be missed at the largest sporting facility in the country owing to Covid-19 concerns, the presence of foreign athletes from Uganda, South Sudan and Tanzania will surely spice up the three-day event.
As 356 athletes battle for the limited slots to Tokyo Games, there wouldn’t be a better way to set the tone of the event than to witness the women’s 5000m final.
With only three slots up for grabs in the 12-lap race, some 17 women have been entered to battle it out.
Two-time world champion Hellen Obiri leads a strong field that also consists of world silver medallist Margaret Chelimo, world junior champion Beatrice Chebet as well as the national cross country champion Sheila Chelangat.
Others are the 2017 world cross country bronze medallist Lilian Kasait, Gloria Kite and the 2014 Commonwealth champion Mercy Cherono among others.
Having bagged a silver medal in 2016, Obiri will be looking to upgrade to a gold medal, the only medal missing in her decorated career.
The 21 year old Chebet is also a force to reckon with, the in-form athlete having shocked her compatriots at the Doha Diamond League for a world lead in 3000m.
“For sure it will be tough. Everybody wants a chance to represent Kenya. For me I will be happy to seal a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics irrespective of the position,” Chebet told Citizen Digital.
On her part Chelang’at will be hoping to wear Kenyan colours at the Summer Games after her dream to represent Kenya at the 2019 World Championships went up in smoke due to anti-doping rules.
“I have prepared well but everybody is ready as well. It will depend on how the body will respond but I am very optimistic I will make the cut,” said Chelangat.
Just a week after setting a new Kenyan record in 1500m, Faith Kipyegon will be in action in the women’s 1500m as she starts her journey towards her title defence.
While Kipyegon and Africa champion Winnie Chebet are the only athletes who have attained the Olympic qualification mark of 4:04.20, the pair will be joined by other 11 women in the field.
Hellen Syombua who is the only Kenyan to qualify for Tokyo Games in the women’s 400m will also be in action in the one lap race whose semi-finals are also set for Thursday alongside the men’s race.
Speedsters Mark Otieno and Ferdinand Omanyala will once again renew their rivalry in the men’s 100m if they proceed to the finals in the respective semi-final encounters.
Athletes will also battle it out in the men’s 800m and 5000m semis ahead of Saturday’s finals.
Other finals to be held on Thursday are; high jump men, 110m hurdles, hammer, and triple jump men and women.