EUGENE, USA (AFP) –
Wilson Kiprop floated over the rain-soaked track to win the 10,000 metres Kenyan Olympic trial race, earning one of three berths up for grabs for a spot in the London Games.
It marked the first time that Kenya had held an Olympic 10,000m trial race on US soil and it came during the final race of the Friday night session at the 38th annual Prefontaine Classic meeting.
“I am very excited,” Kiprop said. “I was competing to win and I was hoping in my mind it would happen. But I never thought I could do it. It is incredible.”
Kiprop finished with a 2012 world leading time of 27 minutes, 01.98 seconds to shatter his former personal best time by over 25 seconds.
The other two Olympic spots went to 2009 World Championship bronze medallist Moses Ndlema Masai (27:02.25) and 21-year-old Bitan Karoki (27:05.50).
Kiprop and Masai battled down the stretch with Kiprop taking the lead for good with about 50 metres to go.
“In the home stretch I started to push and I felt a bit of a pain in my leg. I looked behind and saw it was just the two of us so I didn’t push too hard at the end,” Masai said.
Isaiah Kiplagat, the president of Athletics Kenya, said he hopes the unique Olympic qualifying format will bring Kenya their first gold in the 10,000m since 1968.
“We will see the results in London,” Kiplagat said. “We have been chasing gold for the last 44 years. I believe this time we can win the gold.”
Christian Taylor, the reigning World Champion, dominated the men’s triple jump, recording a season’s best leap of 17.62 metres in a pre-London Olympics showdown. He earned $10,000 for the win by easily outdistancing American compatriot Will Claye who jumped 17.48.
Great Britain’s Phillips Idowu, the 2009 World Champ, was third in 17.05, well off his personal best of 17.81.
Reigning Olympic gold medallist Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia edged Kenyan rival Florence Kiplagat to win the women’s 10,000 metres in a time of 30.24.39.
Kiplagat finished in 30:24.85 while Ethiopian national champion Beleynesh Oljira was third in 30:26.70.
Florence Kiplagat not only prevented an Ethiopian podium sweep Friday but was the lone non-Ethiopian in the top five.
Alysia Montano cruised to victory in the women’s 800 metres, blitzing the field by almost two seconds to win in 1:57.37. American Montano, who posted the second-fastest time in the world this year, was a finalist at the World Championships last year in Daegu.
The 800 metres was run in a driving rain storm, but Montano didn’t mind, saying the victory gave her a huge confidence boost heading into the London Olympics.
“I feel great about right now. It is hard not to get excited about the future. London is kind of like this (weather) so I thought this was good practice.
“I didn’t mind that it rained. It helped the wind die down.”
Kenya’s Pamela Jelimo has the fastest time in the world in the 800, running a 1:56.94 in Doha last month.
The Prefontaine Classic is in its 38th year and is named after former US middle distance runner Steve Prefontaine. It holds the distinction of being the longest-running outdoor invitational track and field meet in America and is part of the 14-race worldwide Diamond League series.