By Isaack Omulo
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Olympic and world champion Conseslus Kipruto dropped out of the 3,000m steeplechase at Kenya’s world championship trials on Friday after the race began at a fierce pace.
Kipruto, who already had a place in the team for the world championships in Doha by virtue of being the defending champion, dropped out after four laps as Leonard Kipkemoi Bett, who won in 8:20.29, and second-placed Benjamin Kigen set off at searing speed.
“I wasn’t prepared for the race because I knew I had an automatic slot in the team, but due to pressure from my fans, and a popular opinion gaining momentum that Kenya is losing out in this event, I decided to run today,” Kipruto, 24, told Reuters.
“This is our (Kenya’s) event. They should not panic. We will not let (it) go. I know all the tactics in the book and I can assure Kenyans that all will be well in Doha. We’ll return the medals here,” said Kipruto.
Elijah Manangoi and Hellen Obiri, who also qualified for Doha automatically as world title holders, did not participate in the Kenyan trials, which were held in the capital Nairobi on Thursday and Friday.
Women’s 3,000m steeplechase world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech and Diamond League 1,500m winner Timothy Cheruiyot won their respective races at the trials.
Cheruiyot annihilated the field with frenetic front running to cross the line in 3:34.91, way ahead of second-placed Ronald Kwemoi (3:36.61) and George Manangoi (3:37.00). Manangoi is the younger brother of Elijah Manangoi.
Doha will be the first time that brothers have represented Kenya in the same event at a global competition.
(Editing by Toby Davis)