ELDORET, Kenya (AP) — Olympic champion David Rudisha was beaten into third place in the 800 meters at the Kenyan trials on Friday but the world-record holder was still selected to defend his title in Rio de Janeiro.
Rudisha finished behind former world junior champion Alfred Kipketer and Ferguson Rotich, who is Rudisha's nemesis this year. Those two took the two automatic places in the 800, leaving Rudisha to fill the selectors' wild-card pick. Officials said before the trials that they would pick Rudisha no matter what.
Still, the defeat continues a sluggish buildup to Rio for the Olympic and world champion, who also had two mediocre performances in the Diamond League.
Rudisha produced one of the memorable Olympic performances when he broke the world record at the 2012 London Games but he has now been beaten three times this season by Rotich.
The top two finishers in each event at the trials qualify for Kenya's team automatically, and officials can select a third athlete as they see fit.
Rudisha wasn't the only big name to be surprised at the trials, a notoriously tough event for the favorites with dozens of contenders in the world's top distance running nation.
On Thursday, 2012 Olympic silver medalist Sally Kipyego failed to qualify in the women's 10,000, and Olympic bronze medalist Thomas Longosiwa missed out in the men's 5,000.
In the famous high-altitude running town of Eldoret, Rudisha trailed in fifth at the final turn and was forced wide to get a clear run down the straight. He only just claimed third.
Two-time Olympic 3,000 steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi also finished third at the trials but knew he was already assured of a place at the Rio Games. Former Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto and Conseslus Kipruto also qualified in the steeplechase.
Reigning world champions Asbel Kiprop in the 1,500 meters, Julius Yego in the javelin, Nicholas Bett in the 400 hurdles, and Vivian Cheruiyot all made Kenya's team, with Cheruiyot targeting a 5,000-10,000 double at the Olympics.