Nairobi — Defending champion Asbel Kiprop, world leader Elijah Manangoi, his training partner Timothy Cheruiyot and Commonwealth Games silver medalist Ronald Kwemoi all progressed to the semi-final of the men's 1500m at the London IAAF World Championships on Thursday night.
While Kiprop, Manangoi and Cheruiyot all advanced with automatic qualification, Kwemoi, who finished seventh in his heat, had to endure the anxiety of waiting to see whether he was among the fastest six losers.
He was as lucky with his finish of 3:43.10 being the sixth fastest of those who finished off the top six, a close call with Argentina's Fredrico Bruno coming seven micro-seconds shy.
Manangoi won the first heat in 3:45.93, slower than Kwemoi's time while Kiprop was second in 3:45.96. Cheruiyot had the second fastest qualification time of 3:38.41 coming in behind Australia's Luke Mathews who won their heat in 3:38.19.
Kiprop and Manangoi exhibited great teamwork with the two ensuring they both qualified after racing to the front and securing the inside lane to cross the finish line in tandem.
Manangoi, who ran a blistering 3:28.80 to set the world leading time in Monaco last month, chose to run in the front while Kiprop reverted to his old trick of running at the back and using his long strides to gallop up the field in the final lap.
He did exactly that with Manangoi also injecting pace and creating space in the inside lane for his compatriot, signaling him to tuck inside as they bulldozed their way up the field.
With a surging chasing pack, the two kept glancing over their shoulders to ensure their automatic slots were not endangered and they held on to the finish line with Germany's Timo Benitz sneaking in for third.
The biggest upset from the extremely slow heat was Olympic champion Mathew Centrowitz from the USA who finished bottom of the pile at 14th while Frenchamn Mehiedine Mekhisi missed out on qualification after finishing seventh.
Kwemoi almost gave the team a scare when he was out of gas and failed to nick in qualification automatically. He had led in most part of the race but in the final lap, his lead faded away with Britain's Chris O'Hare and Bahrain's Sadik Mikhou injecting the pace.
The Bahraini was quicker in the final few yards finishing up first ahead of Czech Republic's Jakub Holusa while O'Hare came in third.
Kwemoi seemed unaware of a surging Robby Andrews from the United States who was shooting up the pace on the inside lane and with the Kenyan looking comfortable and sure of an automatic slot, the American dipped his head.
The third heat was the fastest of the three with winner Mathews holding on in the final 50m to win while Cheruiyot seemed to ease out with qualification already guaranteed.
Unlike his compatriot Kwemoi, Cheruiyot did not want to take chances and stuck up to the top all through the race, not letting Mathews off his radar. With the finish line within sight, Kwemoi stole glances on either side at the back and with no one threatening, he let the Australian take the win.
Other Africans who made it into the semi-finals include Uganda's Ronald Musagala and Morocco's Abdalaati Iguider.