She is the athlete to beat, but with just two weeks left to the World Championships in Doha, World 3,000 metres steeplechase record holder Beatrice Chepkoech is under no pressure.
Chepkoech, who also won the 2019 Diamond League Trophy in the water and barriers race, on Thursday dispelled any fears that she is under pressure to replicate the top for she has shown in the Diamond League this season as she seeks to wrestle back the title Kenya lost to USA two years ago at the 2017 World Championships in London.
“I am not under pressure to perform in Doha. I will compete the way I have been doing in the Diamond League, with the aim of being on the podium,” Chepkoech said. “I have had a good season in which I missed just one leg of the Diamond League Series (Olso), but my aim is to win at the World Championships.”
She was speaking at Nyayo National Stadium after leading Hyvin Kiyeng, Cellphine Chespol and Fancy Cherono across the finish line in women’s 3000m steeplechase final in the national trials.
Chepkoech, who has already qualified for the World Championships by virtue of being the Diamond League trophy winner, won in a time of 9 minutes, 45.15 seconds, followed by Kiyeng (9.45.20) and Chespol (9:45.24). Cherono came fourth in 9:50.11, followed by Mercy Wanjiru (9.54.00) and Naomi Chepkemoi (9.59.71).
QUARTET FOR DOHA
Subsequently, Chepkoech will represent Kenya in the water and barriers race in Doha alongside Kiyeng, Chespol and Cherono.
Chepkoech, the 2015 world champion Kiyeng and Chespol gave Kenyan fans a glimpse of the team spirit they should expect in Doha, the three athletes holding hands together across the finish line in what the reigning Intercontinental Cup champion said symbolised unity and teamwork.
“Our focus is on Doha and this (national trials) was just like training. We held our hands together to show unity and togetherness. I was just helping some of my teammates to post good times. I was trying to push them to post faster times,” she said.
Chepkoech said the game plan in Doha would be for all Kenyan athletes to qualify for the final, from where everyone would fight for a place on the podium.
“We will come up with a proper strategy at the team camp, and to encourage each other to perform well,” she said.
Kiyeng said teamwork will help Kenya deliver the title in Doha. “If we compete as a team, we will post good results. Championship races are anybody’s to win because there is no pacemaker. We have a strong steeplechase team which should deliver glory,” Kiyeng said.
The athlete said the team will be careful to avoid a repeat of mistakes Kenyan athletes made in 2017 World Championships in London, which gifted Americans Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs the top two places in women’s 3,000m steeplechase.
“There were mistakes in 2017 World Championships and by the time we realised, it was too late to fight back. I also had a hamstring injury which affected me badly in the last 200 metres. We hope for the best this time,” she said.