TAMPERE, Finland- Champion Cellphine Chepteek Chespol served notice of her intentions to retain her IAAF World Under 20 (WU20) women 3000m steeplechase crown when she breezed to Friday’s finals without breaking sweat in Tampere, Finland on Tuesday.
Compatriots, among them Nairobi 2017 World Under 18 titleholders, George Manangoi (men 1500m) and Jackline Wambui (women 800m) also advanced from their heats on the opening session of action on a sparkling morning for Team Kenya.
The country could be celebrating a first medal of Tampere 2018 later on Tuesday evening when Rhonex Kipruto and Solomon Kiplimo Boit line-up in the men 10000m final.
Keen on erasing the disappointment of being stunned to silver at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in April where she was stunned to silver, Chespol the only athlete in the field to have broken nine minutes, lined up in heat one as the outstanding favourite in the women’s water and barriers race.
There were therefore, no surprises when she took command of the first heat, cruising away from her rivals with three of the seven and a laps still to run, well clear of Australia’s Montanna McEvoy, who in turn was clear of the peloton.
At the bell, Chespol was all out alone in front, McAvoy also far ahead of the challengers before the Kenyan closed victory in 9:45.60, with the Australian taking second in a personal best of 9:59.67, with the field having its second sub 10 minutes runner.
Minami Nishiyama of Japan took third also in a lifetime best of 10:02.89 to nail the third automatic place for the medal race.
The second Kenyan in the event, Mercy Chepkurui also made it through by finishing second in the final heat taken by Ugandan Peruth Jemutai who put on a steeplechase running clinic to romp home victorious in 9:34.35, the quickest mark of the opening round of the competition.
Jemutai made a statement to her rivals by rifling away with a lap to go in an eye-catching performance that elevated her as the biggest threat to Chespol’s World Under 20 repeat success ambitions.
Ethiopia’s Etalemahu Sintayehu third in 9:52.92, a PB to join her East African rivals in the finals.
Having electrified the home crowd at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani at the jam-packed Nairobi 2017 WU18 last year, George- the younger brother of world champion, Elijah Manangoi and Wambui remained on the medal hunt in Tampere after making it to their respective men 1500m and women 800m semis.
Wambui, who brought the house down in Nairobi last year when winning the world U18 title was in the first race of her competition but she was led to the altar by Ayano Shiomi of Japan who carried the victory with the clocks returning 2:05.13 and 2:05.27 against the Kenyan.
Samantha Watson (2:06.34) of the USA and Jemimah Russell (2:06.84) of Australia took the remaining automatic qualification for Wednesday’s semi finals by placing third and fourth from that heat.
Countrywoman, Lydia Jeruto Lagat (2:05.63) also booked her ticket to the semis when she followed winner Ayaka Kawata, also of Japan across the line for second ahead of Maeliss Trapeau (2:05.72) of France and Belgium runner Camille Muls (2:06.41) who rounded off the top four in Heat 3.
Ethiopia’s Fireweyni Hailu, who’s clocked 2:01.35 this year and is considered the bang on favourite for the top medal did not disappoint in Heat 2 when she easily won after blasting to the lead with 500m to run.
Fireweyni came home in 2:08.27 with Australia’s Carley Thomas second in 2:08.57 as Slovakia’s Gabriela Gajanova and Jamaica’s Chrissani May took the final automatic spots.
In the men 1500m preliminaries, the younger Manangoi had no difficulties punching his ticket for Thursday’s final despite playing second fiddle to Norwegian wunderkind Jakob Ingebrigtsen.
The 17-year-old Ingebrigtsen has had a pretty impressive season to date, with a 3:52 mile among his many fine results and is also entered for the 5000m in Tampere in an effort to counter East Africans dominance in the middle distance races.
The most loaded heat of the metric mile race started in snail’s pace as the field went through in a 65.58-second crawl. Ingebrigtsen was out back and Manangoi towing the field as they steered clear of trouble.
At the business end of proceedings, Ingebrigtsen wound up the pace with 600m to run and the entire way down the home straight, he looked over his right shoulder at rival Manangoi, waving a long arm and pointed finger in front of him as he crossed the line in front.
The Norwegian won in 3:51.34, Manangoi second in 3:51.40 with Algeria’s Oussama Cherrad taking the third giant qualification with 3:52.33.
In the second heat, Kenyan Justus Soget took no chances, as the runner with a lifetime best of 3:32.97 went out in front early on and arrived at 800m in 2:04.46 before rounding a dominant showing by stopping the clock in 3:44.70, the fastest mark of the men 1500m heats.
Ethiopia’s Birhanu Sorsa was second in 3:44.92, while USA’s Copper Teare was third in 3:45.06.
No surprises in heat three of the men’s 1500m where Ethiopia’s Samuel Tefera rocked to victory in 3:44.48, with Serbian Elzan Bibic second in 3:44.68, while Great Britain’s Jake Heyward third in 3:45.45.