Kenyan champ Kiprop the man to beat in Beijing

Beijing, Aug 23 (IANS) As the curtains rose on the World Athletics Championships, many are wondering what it will take to stop 1,500m defending champion Asbel Kiprop from retaining his title at the Bird’s Nest.

Kiprop will be the man to beat as he looks to maintain his recent dominance over the distance and secure a hat-trick of world titles, Xinhua news agency reports.

“I will not overlook anyone. All the people in Beijing are after winning, and I must be prepared for a big battle. But I will take it in my lanky strides,” Kiprop tweeted on Saturday.

The 26-year-old, who impressively claimed the title in both 2011 and 2013, has enjoyed an outstanding 2015 campaign with his only defeat this year coming in May at the Diamond League meeting in Eugene.

The tall, slender Kenyan clinched victories in both Oslo and London. But perhaps most dauntingly for his rivals, he climbed to third on the world’s all-time list by producing the fastest 1,500m time seen for 14 years to win in Monaco in 3:26.69.

Kiprop may start as favourite but there is no shortage of athletes prepared to wrestle the title from his grasp.

Leading the challengers is Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi, who appears to be returning to top form.

The Algerian has raced sparingly this season but ran a personal best of 3:28.75 to finish second behind Kiprop in Monaco and has all the credentials to mount a strong podium threat.

Kiprop is joined on the Kenyan team by Silas Kiplagat, who will also aim for the gold.

The experienced Kiplagat won a Worlds silver behind Kiprop four years ago and with Diamond League victories in Shanghai and Paris behind him, he has the quality to shine.

The Kenyan team is rounded out by the 22-year-old Elijah Manangoi, who made a huge breakthrough in Monaco, running a personal best of 3:29.67.

Other athletes not to be overlooked include Ethiopian record-holder Aman Wote and his compatriot Mekonnen Gebremedhin, the 2012 world indoor bronze medallist.

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