Hay delighted with notable scalps as Kiprop starts well


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The Independent Online

Jonny Hay will be back at his studies as a first-year chemistry undergraduate at Birmingham University this morning. The 19-year-old will still be trying to work out the equation of how he managed to finish on the second step of the podium on Saturday in a race at the start of London Olympic year featuring three gold medal winners and one silver medallist from the 2008 Games.

Though the immediate post-race attention focused on Kenenisa Bekele's false start to 2012 in the short course 3km event at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country meeting, the Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion finishing down in 11th, the emergence of the Jonny Come Lately was not overlooked. It took a purring Rolls Royce performance by Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the world and Olympic 1500m champion to stop Hay from stealing the show on his debut in the senior ranks.

The teenager has pedigree. He won a 5,000m bronze medal at the European Junior Championships last summer and is a member of the same Aldershot, Farnham and District Athletics Club stable that has produced Commonwealth 1500m bronze medallist Steph Twell and European age-group cross country champions Emma Pallant and Emilia Gorecka.

Still, young Hay could hardly have imagined he would start the year by claiming the scalps of two East Africans who will be defending Olympic titles in London and by outsprinting a Beijing silver medallist for the runners-up spot.

As Kiprop sped to a clear victory in 9 minutes 20 seconds, Hay finished like a train to edge Eliud Kipchoge, the former world 5,000m champion and 2008 Olympic silver medal winner, out of second place, clocking 9:25. The patently rusty Bekele was a further 17 seconds down in the field finishing in 11th position, a place ahead of Brimin Kipruto, holder of the Olympic 3,000m steeplechase title.

"Lining up against three Olympic champions in itself was an experience," the fresh-faced Hay said. "Then to go past Bekele halfway through the race, you think 'Woah! I'm moving somewhere now.' Admittedly, he was not on the best form but then, coming down the home straight, to get past an Olympic silver medallist... it's a moment that will hold in me."

Hay's principal target in 2012 is the European Championships in Helsinki in June. "The Olympics is a possibility but I'd have to take off two seconds from my personal best to make the A qualifying standard for the 5,000m, 13min 18sec," he said. "That's going to be tough."

As for Bekele, he stays focused on London. "At this time of the year I don't want to be in very good shape," he said. "It is a long time to the Olympics. I want to build up slowly."