Kenyans seek to end season in style in Brussels

Thursday August 31 2017

USA’s Rowbury Shannon (left) assists Hellen Obiri back to her feet after finishing the 3000m race during the 12th edition of the Diamond League in Birmingham on August 20, 2017. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI |

USA’s Rowbury Shannon (left) assists Hellen Obiri back to her feet after finishing the 3000m race during the 12th edition of the Diamond League in Birmingham on August 20, 2017. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By AYUMBA AYODI
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Several Kenyan athletes including three new World champions Conseslus Kipruto, Hellen Obiri and Faith Chepng’etich hope to wrap up their season in style with victories in the final leg of the Diamond League Series in Brussels, Belgium on Friday.

Kipruto, who is the Olympic and World 3,000m steeplechase champion and Obiri, who topped up her Olympic 5,000m silver medal with victory at London World Championships almost three weeks ago, had hinted at breaking the world record in Brussels but the erratic weather could hamper their plans.

Olympic and World 1,500m champion Faith Chepng’etich and World 800m bronze medallist Kipyegon Bett, also hope to crown a largely successful season with victories too.

Kipruto’s field largely reads from the same script as London World Championships save for the absence of four times World 3,000m steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi.

Kipruto, the winner of the Rome leg in June, had hinted after winning the World title in London three weeks ago that he would attempt breaking the World 3,000m steeplechase record in Brussels if his ankle injury will have healed well.

“The weather doesn’t look good with the rains but let us see how it goes,” said Kipruto. “I have been managing the ankle injury well and hope for the best.”

Kipruto will face the usual suspects Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali and Evan Jager from USA, whom he beat in London for his maiden world title, as his rivals settled for silver and bronze respectively.

Kipruto and Jager have won one event each in the series in Rome and Monaco respectively, but it’s El Bakkali, who leads with victories in Stockholm and Rabat. However, that lead counts for nothing as they all go into the battle on level terms after the format changed.

Kipruto is targeting his third series win after 2013 and 2016, while Jairus Birech, who is also in the field, is eying his third series win after his exploits in 2014 and 2015. Birech finished 12th in London.

The winner takes it all, and at stake is the top prize of US$ 50,000 (Sh5million). The prize fund covers top eight places with the eighth place finisher getting US$ 2,000 (Sh200,000).

It’s at the same venue in Brussels where Kenyan born Saif Saaeed Shaheen of Qatar set a new world record of 7:53.63 on September 3, 2004.

“A record will be tricky with this unfriendly weather,” said Obiri, adding that her efforts in Birmingham on August 20 flopped owing to fatigue.

“I was tired after my victory at the world competition.”

Sifan Hassan, who won in Birmingham, lost the battle to Obiri at the world contest as she settled for bronze. Besides Hassan, Obiri, the winner in Shanghai, Rome and Monaco, will face compatriots World 10,000m bronze medalist Agnes Jebet, World Cross Country bronze medalist Lilian Kasait and African Games 5,000m champion Margaret Chelimo among others.

Bett, who won in Shanghai, will be trying to halt the charge by compatriots, former three times World 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop, Ferguson Rotich, Alfred Kipketer and Robert Biwott.

World 800m silver medalist Adam Kszczot and series leader Amos Nijel, who boast of victories from Paris, London, Rabat and Birmingham, are other potential threats.