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Middle-distance showdown set at Kenyan trials

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Kenya's Ezekiel Kemboi celebrates after winning the men's 3000m steeplechase during the 2012 Olympic Games on August 5, 2012 in London. The men's steeplechase and 800-metre races top the Kenyan trials on Saturday for the world athletics championships at the Nyayo national stadium in Nairobi.AFP/File

The men's steeplechase and 800-metre races top the Kenyan trials on Saturday for the world athletics championships at the Nyayo national stadium in Nairobi.

Nearly 200 athletes are set to compete in the event which has been altered to straight finals, making this the most competitive national team trials ever to be staged in the country.

Olympic and world champion Ezekiel Kemboi, Paul Kipsiele Koech, Brimin Kipruto and Conseslus Kipruto head the strong line-up in the steeplechase.

Two-time champion Kemboi, who announced his retirement after the London Olympics only to change his mind this year showed he was still a force when he ran a world-leading 7:59.03 to win the Paris Diamond League on July 6.

Koech has always struggled to compete at altitude and has failed several times at the world and Olympic trials but the three-time Diamond League champion might get a reprieve this time if he manages to finish among the top three.

However 18-year-old former world junior champion Conseslus Kipruto appears to in the mood to crash the party having beaten both Kemboi and Koech at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon in June.

Apart from Prefontaine, the teenager has won two Diamond League races on the this season including the Bislett Games in Oslo.

Three others youngsters are expected to hold their own in the men's 800m, following the forced withdrawal through injury of David Rudisha and the 2007 world champion Alfred Kirwa Yego on Friday.

The trio who will be led by the London Olympic bronze medallist, Timothy Kitum will be gunning for the remaining berths after Rudisha, the reigning world and Olympic champion was guaranteed his place if he recovers in time for the world championships.

Doctors treating the runner are expected to give their verdict on his availability next week.