NEW DELHI, Oct 7, 2010 (AFP) - Viola Kibiwot was the fastest into the women's 1,500m final on Thursday as Kenya looks to reclaim its dominance of Commonwealth Games distance racing after their men failed to win the 5,000m.
Viola Kibiwott competes during the 1500m women qualification event on October, 7 2010 in New Delhi. AFP
Kibiwot, fifth at the 2008 Olympics, won her heat ahead of England's Helen Clitheroe and New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin and was five seconds faster than the woman who beat her to the title in Beijing, fellow Kenyan Nancy Langat.
On a hot day in front of a near-empty Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, Olympic champion Langat was running in the second, slower heat, and won comfortably in 4:13.62 to keep plenty in reserve for Friday's final.
Traditionally, the battle for supremacy at the Commonwealth track and field has been between Australia and England but Kenya has a real chance to intrude on the long-time rivalry in India.
They have brought some of their top middle and long distance names, although they didn't get off to the best start with Uganda's Moses Kipsiro holding off Kenyan pair Eliud Kipchoge and Mark Kiptoo for the 5,000m title on Wednesday.
Four gold medals are at stake on Thursday, with the men's 100m sprint the big draw.
In the absence of Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell, England's Mark Lewis-Francis, who won silver in the recent European Championships, Jamaica's Oshane Bailey and Canada's Sam Effah look to be the best bets for gold.
The women's 100m final is also held, with Natasha Mayers of St Vincent and the Grenadines the fastest into the semi-finals but well off Debbie Ferguson's Commonwealth record time of 10.91.
Other medals will be decided in the women's hammer, where Wales' Carys Parry (63.53m) was the best qualifier, and men's shot put, with Amand Scott of Jamaica among the favourites.
In other action Thursday morning, England's Conrad Williams was the fastest into the men's 400m semi-finals in 45.78.
Kenya's Mark Kiprotich and Ramon Miller of the Bahamas were also quick.
Meanwhile, a low 2.16 metres was the bar to qualify for the men's high jump final on Saturday with a plenty of athletes through, including Botswana's Kabelo Kgosiemang, Donald Thomas of the Bahamas, and England's Oni Samson.
The track and field program runs until the final day of the Games on October 14 but it has been undermined by the absence of a slew of top names.