The new women’s 3,000m steeplechase National Record holder Cellphine Chespol has set her sights on winning her specialty at the World Championships in London after running the second fastest time in history with victory at Prefontaine Classic on Friday.
The World Under-18 and Under-20 steeplechase champion, who won the race in 8min,58.78sec, stunning the likes of the Olympic 3,000m steeplechase champion and World Record holder Ruth Jebet of Bahrain, said she is amazed by her performance.
Caroline Chepkoech, who finished fourth at the Rio Olympics, came second in personal best 9:00.70 as Jebet, who was the defending champion, settled third in 9:03.52.
Interestingly, Chespol, who was leading the race, had to stop for a few seconds with almost 600m to go to adjust her spikes that almost came off over the water barrier.
The feat by Chespol saw her also improve her World Under-20 record for the third consecutive time in a year. She set the new times of 9:25.15 when winning the World Under-20 in July last year in Bydgoszcz, Poland before improving it to 9:05.70 when she finished fourth in Doha on May 5.
“It’s only after I finished the race that my colleague Caroline Tuigong, who was the pacesetter told me that I had ran under nine minutes,” said the 18-year-old Chespol, a Form Four student at Riruta Central School, Nairobi.
“I couldn’t imagine returning that time especially after my shoe almost came off…It shocked me for a moment.”
With no other races in mind, Chespol, who was inspired by four times World 3,000m steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi, said she now wants to dedicate her energies to winning at the World Championships due August 4-13 in London.
“It felt great running that time for my maiden Diamond League victory. That gives me that inspiration to take a good shot at the World title then I can think about the World Record,” said Chespol, who is handled by coach Gregory Kilonzo. “I also need that World Record but not now.”
Her coach Kilonzo, who also handles Jebet and at one time coached Chepkoech said although Chespol’s rise has been steady, he didn’t expect her to return a national record and the second fastest time ever. “We should expect more from her,” said Kilonzo.
Athletics Kenya youth and development chairman Barnaba Korir described Chespol as an intelligent and patient athlete, who has a bright future both in athletics and education.
Besides Chespol’s victory, Kenya’s Olympic 1,500m gold medallist Faith Chepng’etich and Commonwealth 1,500m bronze medallist Ronald Kwemoi upheld their unbeaten run to win their respective races.
It was a night that saw Kenya’s Olympic 800m Margaret Nyairera fall short of beating World and Olympic gold medallist Caster Semenya after a strong challenge in women’s 800m. Olympics and World 10,000m and 5,000m champion Mo Farah won men’s 5,000m race.