Wilson Kiprop never imagined he would be Kenya's leading 10,000 meters medal hope at the London Games but on a drizzly Friday night in Oregon, the 2010 African champion timed his late surge to perfection to win his nation's Olympic trial.
Ignoring the controversy in Kenya over the race being contested on U.S. soil, Kiprop passed former world bronze medalist Moses Masai with 50 meters to go and won in the year's fastest time at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting.
The 24-year-old bettered his personal best by a massive 25 seconds when he crossed the line in 27 minutes, 1.98 seconds.
"I could not imagine I could win the race today," Kiprop told reporters. "But I hoped in my mind maybe something would happen. It's something very incredible."
Masai ran 27:02.25 and Bitan Karoki finished third in 27:05.50 to complete the Kenyan team for London.
The Kenyans moved their trials to low-altitude Eugene with an aim to break a 44-year drought without an Olympic gold in the 10,000. Their last victory in the event came at the 1968 Mexico Olympics when Naftali Temu triumphed.
Athletics Kenya chairman Isaiah Kiplagat was delighted the outcome.
"We are pleased that the results have not been disappointing," he said. "With no pacemakers, the times were very impressive."
Asked if the Kenyans might hold future Olympic and world championship trials outside of high-altitude Nairobi, Kiplagat was a little more circumspect.
"We will see what the results are in London," he said. "If the results are good, we will say that is the way to go."
Despite the wet track and sometimes rainy conditions at the Diamond League meeting, a classy field also delivered the year's top performances in the men's triple jump and women's 10,000m.
World outdoor champion Christian Taylor outdueled U.S. team mate Will Claye to win the triple jump at 17.62 meters. Global indoor winner Claye bounded 17.48 and British Olympic hopeful Phillips Idowu claimed third at 17.05 with only two fair jumps.
Ethiopian Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba pipped Kenya's Florence Kiplagat in the women's 10,000m, running 30:24.39. Kiplagat clocked 30:24.85, the year's second fastest.
Fast times were also recorded in the middle distance events.
Kenyan James Magut led 12 runners under four minutes in the mile, winning in 3:54.16, and American Alysia Montano sped to the year's second fastest women's 800 in 1:57.37.
The meeting continues on Saturday with Ethiopian Olympic gold medalist Kenenisa Bekele facing British world champion Mo Farah over 5,000 meters and China's Liu Xiang taking on a strong field of U.S. athletes in the 110m hurdles.
(Editing by John O'Brien)