Nairobi — After securing their tickets to the men's 3000m steeplechase final at the World Under 20 Championship, Haron Kibet and Emmanuel Wafula feel they are on course to win the title.
Amos Serem clinched the steeplechase crown at last year's championship in Nairobi and the duo believe they can replicate their countryman's achievement.
Kibet said the pressure of meeting Kenyans' expectations - many scarred by the country's recent dwindling fortunes in the water and barrier race - is just what the doctor ordered as they prepare for the race on Saturday.
"I think we do well under pressure. We are running for the gold medal. We are expecting to win the race," Kibet, who finished second in Heat 3, said.
He clocked 8:47.25, behind winner Samuel Duguna of Ethiopia, who won the race in 8:44.93 as Czech Republic's Tomas Habarta came third in 8:47.36.
Kibet said he did not want to overexert himself lest he becomes fatigued before the ultimate race.
"Today, we didn't use as much pressure. My team is expecting us to go home with gold," he said.
Bungoma-born Wafula clocked 8:49.57 in Heat 2 to clinch his spot in the final as another Ethiopian, Samuel Firewu timed 8:49.27 in first.
Japanese Ryotaro Onuma came third in 9:00.02.
"I am feeling good about my race. I am feeling prepared for the final. I am feeling happy," Wafula said.
Meanwhile, Edwin Kimosong, winner of Heat 2 of the men's 3000m, is adamant he will be in top shape for the final despite struggling with an injury during Wednesday's race.
"It (the race) felt pretty easy. I have had a small leg issue for about two weeks but I think it will be fine for the final," he said.
"The race was good. I was expecting a good result like that, but for now we will be focused on the final," Kimosong added.
Kimosong clocked 7:55.60 as Eritrean Habtom Samuel (7:56.70) and Ethiopian Diriba Girma (7:57.16) settled for second and third.
Another Kenyan, Felix Korir, timed 7:58.12 to storm to victory in the first heat, ahead of Ugandan Dan Kibet (7:59.71) and Ethiopian Melkeneh Azize (8:00.37) in second and third respectively.
Despite the win, Korir is not under any illusions about the magnitude of the task ahead.
"The race was not bad. I felt confident. I was trying to qualify but I think later it will be tougher," he said.