The 2008 Olympic 1,500m champion, Nancy Jebet Lagat and 2012 World Indoor 3,000m champion Helen Obiri won their semi-final races to set up an explosive 1,500m final at the Kenya Defence Forces Athletics Championships which conclude Saturday in Kasarani.
London Olympic Games 3,000m steeplechase bronze medallist Abel Mutai who is also the Africa champion is favourite to win the steeplechase final in an event that also has Peter Mateelong and World Military champion, Abraham Chirchir, as well as younger brother to two-time Africa 3,000m steeplechase champion, Richard Mateelong will also be participating.
Lagat, who has been struggling with form, won her first competitive semi-final since her Beijing Olympics exploits in two minutes and 6.79 seconds, beating Stella Jepleting (2:06.82) and 2009 World Junior 800m silver medallist Winnie Chebet at 2:07.06.
Obiri clocked 2:07:24 to win the other semi-final, beating Eunice Jeptoo (2:08.10) and Schola Jepkemboi (2:14.03). “I want to listen to my body and see how I will perform in the final,” said Obiri, who finished 11th in 1,500m at the 2011 World Championships after she was tripped and fell.
Obiri, who boasts a personal best of 3:59.68 in 1,500m, said she is eyeing one more race in the Diamond league, perhaps in New York on May 25, before laying out her season’s programme.
Obiri, the 2011 and 2012 Kenyan champion in 1,500m, started her season with victory in 5,000m at the Nakuru AK/NBK Weekend Meeting, clocking 15:49.00 before contesting at the USA Penn relay where the Kenyan team posted 2:01.00.
Mutai timed 8:44.3 seconds to win his semi-final, beating Chichir (8:44.7), who is also the World Military champion, Esau Kaiboi (8:50.8) and Christoper Mitei (8:52.6) in that order. Mateelong returned home in 8:42.4 to win the second semi-final ahead of Ronald Tanui (8:40.9) and Noah Kemboi (8:54.0).
The women’s 1,500m final will start at 11.45am, paving way for the men’s final at 11.50am. But before this, the same rivals will line up in the 800m final. The men’s 1,500m has former Africa bronze medallist Jackson Kivuva and former World junior 1,500m silver medallist Julius Magut, who prevailed in their semi-final races.
Africa 5,000m and 10,000m champion Gladys Cherono will go for a double as she seeks to retain the women’s 10,000m after keeping the 5,000m crown on Thursday. Cherono will once again face Lineth Chepkirui, whom she beat to second place on Thursday, and former World 10,000m champion Sally Barsosio.
Newly-crowned 10,000m champion Mark Kiptoo will be seeking a brace in the 5,000m race where he holds the Africa title. However, the reigning two-time World Military 5,00m champion faces tough battle against youngster Leonard Oloitiptip, whom he beat on Thursday to second place.