Nairobi, Friday Kenya’s quest of finally grounding British champion, Mo Farah, in the men 5000m final will fall on the legs of Commonwealth title holder, Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku, 2008 Olympics bronze medallist, Edwin Soi and Moscow third finisher Isaiah Koech after they progressed to Saturday’s final.
First timer Emmanuel Kipsang failed to make the cut after bowing out in the first heat where he finished eighth in 13:46.43 in the slowest qualifier, where Soi crossed the line third to automatically qualify in 13:45.28.
Mwangangi, who has had a bumpy season after struggling with injury, ran his season best of 13:19.58 to finish fourth in the fastest heat that benefited Koech who advanced as one of the five fastest losers in 13:23.5.
Champion Farah finished second in 13:19.44 behind winner and another favourite, Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha who clocked 13:19.38 whilst Canadian, Mohammed Ahmed came third in 13:19.58.
Mwangangi, Soi and Koech will hope to take the cue from compatriots Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor, Paul Tanui and Bedan Karoki who took the fight to Farah on Sunday but lost out on the top medal over the last lap.
Kenya is hoping to produce a first winner in the 12 and a-half lap race since Benjamin Limo, who now represents athletes at IAAF, came up with the goods in the 2005 edition in Helsinki, Finland.
Mwangangi who collected five titles last year, the World Indoor, Commonwealth, African, World Cup and IAAF Diamond League is the favourite to offer Farah his stiffest test from Kenya alongside besides Kejelcha, the former World Youth champion, who has exploded this season.
In the first heat, Malawi’s inexperienced Stuart Band, his country’s only representative at these championships and having his first ever international race, almost immediately shot into the lead and the rest of the field let him go as he opened up a 25-metre gap.
However, on the fifth lap, the audacious Banda started to tire and was quickly swallowed up by the rest of the field. It was then the turn of Rwanda’s Felicien Muhtitira to show at the front and push the pace for several laps and just like Banda, he too gradually slipped back over the course of the next few laps.
With 4km reached in 11:13.16, Kipsang took the fore as he had been with three laps to go, there were still effectively 16 men in contention for the five automatic qualifying spots. But the pace increased with 600 metres to go as Great Britain’s Tom Farrell stepped up a gear, which had an immediate impact and shook off several men.