Nairobi, KenyaWorld Indoor 3000m champion Hellen Obiri launched her outdoor campaign in this Olympic season by powering to a seamless victory in her women 1500m speciality as the three-day Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Championships wrapped up on Saturday (12) in Nairobi.
Obiri among the department’s signature athletes who fulfilled the favourites role at the event that was missing Olympics women 1500m titleholder and defending double Forces champion, Nancy Jebet Langat and the 2010 World Cross senior men winner, Joseph Ebuya.
However, a polished long distance double from Gladys Cherono, a national record achieved by Caroline Cherotich in the women’s Pole Vault and a meet record in the women’s Javelin Throw by Zeddy Cherotich highlighted the competition where female athletes ruled the roost.
The event that enjoyed fairly warm weather was the first athletics meet to be held at the refurbished 60,000-seater, Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, 8km from Nairobi that has been closed for over two years.
Competitors lauded the new track noting that its surface was smoother than the hard tartan at the much smaller Nyayo National Stadium that hosted the 2010 Africa Championships.
Cherono on the double
Accomplished road racer, Gladys Cherono, a third finisher on the roads at both the Ras Al Khaimah and Prague half marathons this year proved her prowess on the track when she upstaged accomplished stars to secure the women 5000m and 10,000m titles.
Opening with the longer distance, Cherono of Kahawa Garrison, forced Boston Marathon titleholder, Sharon Cherop, to accept silver in both races in identical fashion, using her far superior finishing speed to tear away from the Worlds bronze winner.
"I came here to build on my speed and I’m pleased with what I have done. I will continue training for the nationals and who knows, if everything goes well, I could find myself qualifying for the Olympics," said Cherono, who took silver in 5000m at the 2008 National Championships noted after winning her races in 16:24.8 (5000m) and 35:17.1 (10000m).
Having been overlooked for the London Olympics by her federation, Cherop (Isiolo) who clocked 35:19.8 in the longer race on Friday before timing 16:27.2 a day later has set her sights on the autumn Marathon season.
"Having run at the Dubai Marathon in January where I finished seventh and winning Boston, I felt that I would not be in the best shape to compete for the country in London but I hope to have recovered for the marathons that come later.
"I lost to an athlete with better speed but I had a good work out and I wish the London team all the best," the Boston winner stated.
World Military Games 10,000m titleholder, Doris Changeiywo (35:20.2) ended her Forces title defence in the 25-lap race with bronze while the 2006 World Junior 3000m champion, Veronica Nyaruai (16:28.1) bagged the third medal in 5000m.
World Juniors 5000m silver winner, John Chepkwony’s rise up the Forces ranks continued apace when he beat Victor Chumo (13:36.5) to the gold in the men 5000m in 13:36.2 as deposed titleholder Vincent Kiprop (13:38.3), the World Cross senior bronze winner came home in third.
Michael Tiony bagged the 10,000m crown in 28:40.0 with William Chebon (28:41.5) and Lewis Mosoti (28:42.0) trailing in second and third.
Obiri sets London aim
In the absence of Olympic gold winner, Jebet Langat, the Forces women 1500m crown had only one name written on it and Istanbul 3000m champion, Corporal Obiri (Laikipia Airbase) duly stepped to the plate to complete a crushing triumph in 4:17.0 on the clock.
Perin Nenkampi (Moi Airbase) led the pretenders home in 4:20.4 with Agnes Chesang (Isiolo) finishing a distant third (4:24.6) way ahead of Sheila Chepkirui (Thika/4:29.2) the Bydgoszcz World Juniors team member who came fourth.
"It is too early to talk about the London Olympics since the season has just started but I will return to train for the Trials and from there, I will know what position I will be in," said Obiri, the Daegu Worlds finalist.
Langat skipped the meet as she continues to recover from the knee injury that blighted her 2011 season where the World title once again eluded her in Daegu.
Commonwealth 1500m champion, James Magut, was in imperious form in the corresponding men’s race as he completed a close victory over the charging 2008 Africa Championships silver winner with 3:41.1 against 3:41.3 as Bernard Katingei (3:41.6) ended the tight contest in the bronze position.
Mercy Njoroge, the Commonwealth silver medallist in the women 3000m Steeplechase retained her standing as the Forces queen of the water and barriers race when she tore away from Moncton World Juniors bronze winner, Lucia Kamene (10:15.6) to wrap her second title in 10:08.4.
Abel Mutai, the 2005 World Youth champion, took the men’s event in 8:26.2 after engaging the gears over the last 200m to relegate Daegu World team member Abraham Chirchir (8:28.1) to second as Hillary Kemboi (8:29.8) finished third.
African bronze medallist, Jackson Kivuva, successfully held on to his men’s two-lap title in 1:48.1 ahead of Cornelius Kiplagat (1:48.4) and Andrew Kiptoo (1:48.6), while Jane Jelagat (2:02.3) toppled teammate and the former World Youth and World Junior silver medallist, Winnie Chebet (2:03.1) in the women’s 800m final.
Cherotich leaps the heights
A huge roar resonated around Kasarani when All Africa Games bronze winner and Forces titleholder; Caroline Cherotich cleared 3.15m in the women's Pole Vault to hammer her own 3.10m national record on Friday.
Cherotich, who harbours London Olympics hopes pledged to do her all to achieve at least the 4.40m B-Standard.
"(Julius) Yego was given his ticket after meeting the B-Standard in Javelin and this has given field athletes hope to aim for the same," she added.
Pricillah Nasimiyu took silver with a best effort of 2.80m but she was declared the 'Victoress’ after she added the 100m Hurdles (15.1), High jump (1.65m) titles to be crowned the best female performer in the meet.
In the women’s Javelin, Zeddy Cherotich shed 3m from the previous meet record when she registered a best throw of 48.45m.
Mumo outclasses Mutai
Commonwealth 400m champion, Mark Mutai, could not live with the ferocious pace set by veteran Athens Olympics campaigner, Vincent Mumo, who reclaimed the lap title in 46.2.
Mutai, the African bronze winner, lost silver to Jonathan Kibet (46.4) as he came home for bronze in 46.6.
Mumo went on to be named the 'Victor’ after bagging the 200m gold in 20.9 before anchoring his Moi Airbase 4x400m team to the top medal (3:07.7).
Status quo was maintained in the men and women 20km Race Walking as the evergreen David Kimutai (1:29.52) and African champion and record holder, Grace Wanjiru (1:37.2) held on to their crown.
Kenya Police host their championships at the same venue next Thursday and Friday.
Mutwiri Mutuota (Capital FM) for IAAF
*Electronic timing was used but intermittent power meant that times must be seen as hand timed
100m 1. Emmanuel Letukunye 10.2 2. Tony Chirchir 10.3 3. Walter Moega 10.4
200m 1. Vincent Mumo 20.9 2. Emanuel Lekukunye 21.2 3. Tony Chirchir 21.3
400m 1. Vincent Mumo 46.2 2. Jonathan Kibet 46.4 3. Mark Mutai 46.6
800m 1. Jackson Kivuva 1:48.1 2. Cornelius Kiplagat 1:48.4 3. Andrew Kiptoo 1:48.6 4. Geofrey Matum 1:48.8 5. Henry Bitok 1:49.2 6. Moses Kipchirchir 1:49.5
1500m 1. James Magut 3:41.1 2. Gedion Gathimba 3:41.3 3. Bernard Katingei 3:41.6 4. Nicholas Kipchumba 3:41.8 5. Vincent Leting 3:42.7 6. Steve Raswei 3:43.5
5000m 1. John Chepkwony 13:36.2 2. Victor Chumo 13:36.5 3. Vincent Kiprop 13:38.3 4. Kiprono Menjo 13:45.8 5. Nathan Langat 13:46.4 6. Leonard Oleitiptip 13:47.2
10,000m 1. Mike Tiony 28:40.0 2. William Chebon 28:41.5 3. Lewis Mosoti 28:42.0 4. Kimutai Kiplimo 28:46.8 5. Reuben Limaa 28:50.8 6. Richard Ndegwa 29:06.8
3000m Steeplechase 1. Abel Mutai 8:26.2 2. Abraham Chirchir 8:28.1 3. Hillary Kemboi 8:29.8 4. Wilson Maraba 8:33.3 5. Linus Chumba 8:36.6 6. Kennedy Njiru 8:37.0
20km Race Walk 1. David Kimutai 1:29.52 2. Julius Sawe 1:35.08 3. Daniel Parsaloi 1:35.30
100m 1. Gladys Thiongo 12.0 2. Mary Tanui 12.1 3. Emilly Osimbo 12.2