The 2008 Beijing Olympics 1,500m gold medallist, Nancy Jebet Lagat, reckons Kenya has the best opportunity to clinch the country its maiden metric mile world title.
Jebet described her team that has the World Indoor 3,000m champion Helen Obiri and World Junior 1,500m champion Faith Chepng’etich as a fantastic combination that boasts youth and experience.
Obiri won the national trials in four minutes 06.91 seconds, beating double World Cross junior champion Chepng’etich and Jebet to second and third places in 4:07 and 4:07.23 respectively.
Kenya is yet to win a medal in women’s 1,500m race since the World Championships begun in 1983 with athletes from Russia, the US, Bahrain and Algeria dominating.
“Obiri and Chepng’etich have run under four minutes this season. I have recovered fully from a nagging knee injury and I smell something good from Moscow,” said Jebet, who has promised to bounce back after a knee surgery in December 2011.
Cheng’etich and Obiri each have two times that are ranked in 10 top in the world this season. Chepng’etich boasts the second fastest time this season in the world after returning a national record-breaking time of 3:56.98 for a second place at the Doha Diamond League race on May 10.
Sweden’s Aregawi won
The 19-year-old Chepng’etich lost the battle to Ethiopian-born Swede Abeba Aregawi, who clocked world leading time 3:56.60.
Obiri has the fourth fastest time this season with her personal best victory in Eugene, Oregon, of 3:58.58 where Chepng’etich finished second in 4:01.08 that is 10th in the world. Obiri has the eighth fastest time in the world of 4:00.93 after finishing second behind USA’s Jennifer Simpson in sixth fastest time of 4:00.48. Simpson will be defending her title in Moscow.
The 31-year-old Jebet, who won gold in 800m and 1,500m at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, said she struggled with injury before bowing out in the semi-finals at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, Korea.
“We all have a chance because I believe Championship races are different, with all those in the final having an equal chance of winning gold,” said the Kenya Air Force officer.”
“I really don’t focus on who is in my races but my strength and running my own race. With God, everything is possible.”
Obiri is out to atone for her poor performance in Daegu with victory in Moscow while Cheng’etich is seeking to uphold her upward trend in the race with a podium place after falling in the semi-finals at the London Olympics. “We must focus on qualifying in the heats and semi-finals before we can talk about the final,” said Obiri.
“The semi-finals is where the battle will revolve around. We break that barrier and we are in for a big party,” said Chepng’etich, who reckons that she could be the secret weapon in the team.
“Well, it makes me work extra hard and I hope for the best.”
But the Kenyan runners should watch out for the opposition. Besides Aregawi, who also won in Roma in 4:00.23 and Simpson, the Kenyans, should watch out for the Ethiopian trio of Gezebe Dibaba, who finished third in Doha 3:57.54, Gelete Burka and Senbira Teferi.