Kenya's Hellen Obiri celebrates her victory (© AFP / Getty Images)
Hellen Obiri defeated an Olympic champion for the second time this month in claiming victory at the Kenya Defence Forces Cross Country Championships in Thika on Friday (20).
After beating Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon by a narrow margin at the start of the month at the Campaccio meeting, Obiri handed Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong a comprehensive defeat over 10km on the road to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017 on 26 March.
Running hard from the gun, Obiri covered the 10km course in 32:49 with Sumgong – who is building up to defend her London Marathon title in April – coming through late to take second place in 33:17 from the fast-starting Joyciline Jepkosgei in 33:29.
“My body is feeling great and I just can’t wait for my maiden World Cross Country,” said the 2012 world indoor 3000m champion. “I have never taken part at the event but I am focused.”
Gladys Cherono, the 2014 world half-marathon champion, continued her comeback from a serious back injury to claim fifth in 34:02 with 2006 world junior cross-country champion Pauline Korikwiang sixth in 34:13.
By contrast, the men’s contest was only decided in the closing stages with Emmanuel Kipsang sprinting to a successful title defence ahead of Frankline Keitany. Both athletes shared the same time of 29:20 with Hillary Kering making up the podium in 29:47.
Mark Kiptoo, who turns 41 this year, was a competitive fifth in 29:51.
Choge sets sights on longer distances
Augustine Choge was one of the in-form runners over 3000m on the indoor circuit last winter but the Kenyan missed the majority of the summer season through injury before returning in the autumn with some encouraging results at the half marathon, including a 1:00:01 clocking in New Delhi in November.
On the day of his 30th birthday, Choge – who is also a 3:29.47 performer over 1500m – had the beating of his rivals over 10km at the Kenyan Police Service Cross Country Championships at the Ngong Racecourse in Nairobi on Saturday (21), clocking 31:13 ahead of James Kitum (31:14) and Emmanuel Kiprono (31:15).
“I want to put all my energy and focus on track in 10,000m and 5000m since I want to make the team for the World Championships,” said Choge, who is also aiming to make the Kenyan team for Kampala after a nine-year absence from the World Cross Country Championships.
World cross-country champion Geoffrey Kamworor was a late withdrawal as he has not sufficiently recovered from a recent leg injury.
Caroline Chepkoech won the women’s race in 35:49 ahead of Lucy Cheruiyot (36:10) and Paskalia Jepkorir (36:18) while Edna Kiplagat finished seventh in 37:02 on the road to the Boston Marathon in April.
Aprot maintains form on the road to Kampala
African cross-country champion Alice Aprot confirmed her credentials as another of the in-form athletes on this surface with a commanding victory at the Kenyan Prisons Cross Country Championships at the Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi on Saturday.
Aprot, who also claimed the African 10,000m title on the track last summer, employed her trademark front-running tactics to claim a gun-to-tape win in the 10km in 32:50 ahead of Pauline Kaveke (33:22) and Nancy Nzisa (33:39).
Bernard Muia has never represented Kenya in international competition but the 21-year-old, who trains in the same group as Faith Kipyegon, might be in contention to claim a place on the team for Kampala. He defeated a strong field over 10km in 29:32, winning by three seconds ahead of Justus Kangogo (29:35) and Cornelius Kangogo (29:43).
As a mark of just how competitive this race was, 2012 Olympic 5000m bronze medallist Thomas Longosiwa finished a lowly 27th but only 1:19 behind the winner.
Steven Mills (with assistance from Kip Evans) for IAAF