Oregon 2022: Halimah Nakaayi wants perfect start

Ugandan athlete Halimah Nakaayi’s goal in the first Heats is to run a good race. PHOTO/AFP

What you need to know:

  • Intention. Nakaayi is well aware of the task which begins with the 800m Heats in the early hours of tomorrow.

Halimah Nakaayi’s blistering kick in the home stretch is still fresh in memory from the Monday night of September 30, 2019.

She had the handful of fans inside the Khalifa Stadium in awe and Ugandans back home ecstatic as she powered to the 800m title at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.

Whereas a lot of water has gone under the bridge since, Nakaayi is back at the global stage to defend her crown at the Oregon Worlds on the US west coast.

The 27-year-old is well aware of the task which begins with the Heats at the Hayward Field in the early hours of tomorrow.

“I am ready,” she said. Nakaayi arrived in Eugene at the start of the week and surely, she has had the company of training partners Ronald Musagala and Winnie Nanyondo who are already through with competition here.

Tough competition

In Doha, Nakaayi was the first Ugandan on track. At Hayward, she could be the one to close the nation’s chapter here, only if she makes it to the highly anticipated final due the early hours of Monday in Kampala.

Her goal in the first Heats is simple: “To run a good race,” she said. Last year, Nakaayi suffered an injury in late April and despite recovery, she stopped in the semi-final Heats at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Japan.

This year, she started well by claiming bronze at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia and she has dipped under two minutes thrice in six of her outdoor races with 1:58.68 being her season best.

The Netherlands-based runner will definitely want to do better and probably break her own national record of 1:58.03 if she is to beat a long list to the medal.

Among the 48 names entered from 29 countries, it includes Olympic champion American Athing Mu, Olympic silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson, in-form Kenyan Mary Moraa as well as the American trio of Allie Wilson, Raevyn Rogers and Ajee Wilson.

Nakaayi beat the latter pair to gold in Doha but her task now has other threats from Jamaican Natoya Goule, South African prodigy Prudence Sekgodiso, French Renelle Lamote, Australian Catriona Bisset and Hirut Meshesha.

Cheptegei back

An hour after Nakaayi’s race, 10000m world champion Joshua Cheptegei will be back on the Hayward Field track in company of young compatriots Oscar Chelimo and Peter Maru for the men’s 5000m Heats.

“I am here because I want to win the title,” Cheptegei said after retaining the 25-lap world title on Sunday.
His medal cabinet has eight medals since 2017 but there is only one successful long-distance double, from the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

Whereas he won the 5000m Olympic gold and also became the second man to post a sub-13 over the distance this year, Cheptegei has a stern test too. His title quest will come under scrutiny from Kenyans Nicholas Kipkorir and Jacob Krop who are the fastest this year with 12:46.33 and 12:46.79 from the Rome Diamond League in Italy on June 9.

By virtue of Edris Muktar being defending champion, Ethiopia has four entries with Berihu Aregawi, 2019 silver medalist Selemon Barega and Yomif Kejelcha all entered.
Olympic 10000m champion Barega finished fifth and swallowed a humble pie while Aregawi came seventh in the 25-lap final on Sunday. However, Kejelcha, who took 10000m silver behind Cheptegei in Doha, is fresh for this mission.

Then Commonwealth 10000m and 5000m silver medallist Canadian Mohammed Ahmed who finished sixth on Sunday, is in the fray too and so is Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen who won 1500m silver on Tuesday night.

DAY EIGHT - UGANDANS IN ACTION TOMORROW

3:10am: Halimah Nakaayi 
(Women’s 800m Heats)
4:10am: Joshua Cheptegei, 
Oscar Chelimo, Peter Maru 
(Men’s 5000m Heats)
DAY NINE - SATURDAY
4:35am: Women’s 800m 
Semi-final Heats
DAY TEN - SUNDAY
4:25am: Women’s 5000m Final
DAY 11 - MONDAY
4:05am: Men’s 5000m Final
4:35am: Women’s 800m Final
 

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