By Justin Lagatâ€”Kenyans are shifting their 3000m steeplechase dominance to the women's event. In most parts of Kenya, rain is often associated with good luck and blessings. Nothing more could have happened at the ongoing world championships in London to reinforce this believe than what just happened in the women's 3000m steeplechase race in which all the four Kenyan women, in the pouring rain, made it through to the finals. This rain could simply be marking the beginning of Kenya's dominance of the event on the women's side.
In a very slow first heat that left the race open up to the last 200m, Kenya's Purity Kirui could not summon enough strength to finish in the first three automatic places when it came down to a sprint for the finish. She finished 4th and her time of 9:40.53 was definitely going to get her into the finals if she was to qualify as one of the fastest losers. However, Colleen Quigley of the US, who had finish in third place, got disqualified and the lucky Kirui managed to get an automatic qualification to replace her. There were two Kenyans in the first heat; Hyvin Kiyeng, the defending champion and Kirui. Kiyeng finished second making it safely to the finals.
In the second heat, Kenya's Beatrice Chepkoech and Bahrain's Ruth Jebet opened a big gap on the rest of the field and dominated the race as they both comfortably qualified for the finals. Courtney Frerichs of USA finished in third to join the two as the automatic qualifiers on heat two.
The third heat was more like the first heat in that it started out quite slowly but got fast towards the finish as Kenya's Celliphine Chespol, the world leader this year, won it followed by USA's Emma Coburn. Genevieve Lacaze Australia finished third.
However, the rain did not bring much luck to the Kenyan men in the 5000m heats. Strangely, a Kenyan got lapped in the first heat that saw Yomif Kejelcha, Mo Farah, Muktar Edris, Justyn Knight and Aron Kifle qualified automatically to the finals.
The second heat was faster and more dramatic as Paul Chelimo of USA fell down together with Kenya's Josphat Menjo as the race neared its climax. Ethiopia's Selemon Barega who won the IAAF world under 18 championships last month in Nairobi, Kenya became the winner in 13:21.50. Birhanu Balew of Bahrain was second and Kenya's Cyrus Rutto third. Australia's Patrick Tiernan and USA's Ryan Hill followed to complete the top five qualifying positions. Chelimo finished eight, but the fast times in the heat secured him a place in the final.
With four strong Kenyan women in the finals of the 3000m steeplechase race on Friday, there is a possibility of another historic performance to replicate what Milcah Chemos and Lydiah Chepkurui did at the Moscow world championships in 2013.