Kenyan teamwork destroys Ramolefi’s medal hopes

Kenyan teamwork put paid to Ruben Ramolefi and South African hopes in the 3000m steeplechase final on the fourth day of the World Athletics Championships in Berlin.

Adopting his traditional front-running style Ramolefi had the lead for the initial 700m before Paul Keoch and Ezekiel Kemboi commenced their disruptive tactics of leading and slowing.

The South Africa extricated himself to the front for the completion of the first kilometre in 2:41,90, but was simply overhauled again by the Kenyan trio. This time there was no coming back as the field moved past the 31-year-old who had fallen to eleventh with three laps remaining.

Kenyan mastery had Kemboi, Koech and Richard Mateelong upfront with only Frenchman Bouabdellah taking them on, while the defending world champion Brimin Kipruto controlled the pace of the chasing group some ten metres adrift.

The Athens Olympic and current Commonwealth Champion, Kemboi added the World title to his CV in a new championship record of eight minutes and 0,43 seconds, with Mateelong in second and the gutsy Frenchman breasting out Koech to destroy the Kenyan one two three.

Ramolefi finished a distant 13th in 8:32,54, the sort of time he had long put behind him.

”Running aggressively is the only way to beat them. I knew they would try to neutralize me by keeping me away from the front.

”When I allowed Kemboi to pass me my natural rhythm was lost and they destroyed me. My style is to go out and run from the front undisturbed. In South Africa I have no-one to compete against.

”In Europe it’s a different ball game. It’s something I need to work on,” said Ramolefi.

”I think I was more mentally broken than anything. I just couldn’t find the strength to pick myself up and go against them,” he added.

In the morning session 200m sprinter Thuso Mpaung’s progressed to the quarterfinals as third of five fastest losers in a time of 20,91 seconds behind German Robert Hering (20,64) and a multiple World championship medallist Wallace Spearman, both of whom he met again in the evening session.

While Usain Bolt took the first of the quarterfinals in 20,41 seconds a full tenth of a second clear of France’s David Alerte, Thuso Mpaung bowed out of the last race in 20,87 seconds for fifth place.

Panama’s Alonso Edwards took the line in 20,33 seconds ahead of American Spearman, with the crowd again assisting German Hering into the frame in 20,58 seconds.

Question marks still hang over Simon Makagwe’s participation in the 4 x 100 relay, following injury sustained in Saturday’s 100m quarterfinal. Without Makagwe the team will have to be withdrawn as both Tshegofatso Meshoe, and Kagisho Kumbane went home injured just before the team arrived in Berlin.

Earlier, fortune failed to smile on Pieter Smith whose season was disrupted by glandular fever after setting a lifetime best of 45,63 in the national championships in Stellenbosch. His outside lane draw against two time world champion Jeremy Wariner in Tuesday mornings 400m heats did nothing to aid his chances. The 22-year-old faded out of contention after 200m to finish last in 48,14 seconds.

Wariner took the line in 45,54 ahead of Jamaican Ricardo Chambers and Frenchman Teddy Venel.

The 4 x 400 relay commences on Saturday with LJ van Zyl and Ofentse Mogawane the expected foundation, with Smith, Sibusiso Sishi, and Jacob Ramokoka the likely contenders for the remaining spots. Sishi did not get a place in Beijing but on current form could well be third choice this time round.

Willem Coertzen kicks off the South African competition in the first day of the Decathlon on Wednesday. Coertzen has bettered the national record twice this year and is expected to make the hat-trick by the end of Thursday’s competition.

Unusually the women’s 200m will progress from first round direct to a semifinal giving added incentive to Isabel le Roux who faces an experienced but none too daunting field in Wednesday night’s first round.

South Africa will be hoping Caster Semenya has saved the best for last when she takes on an impressive field in the 800m final. Having twice accounted for defending world champion Janeth Jepkosgei, the Kenyan should hold no fear for the Limpopo-based youngster.

However, Britain has two useful contenders in Jennifer Meadows and Marilyn Okoro who would become an even bigger threat in a slow race where they could use tactics to kill Semenya’s pace. Although she has the fastest time of the year the 18-year-old faces many experienced big kickers and her best hope lies with a fast race.

Without question the new kid on the block provides South Africa with its best medal chance in the championships to date, and it will keep South Africans on the edge of a chair until 21:35 on Wednesday night.

If successful it will be the first world championship medal since 2003. — Sapa

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