11 August 2017

Kenyans Mount Four-Pronged Attack on Women's Steeplechase Title

Conseslus Kipruto threw down the gauntlet to his female compatriots by winning the men's steeplechase on Tuesday, and the quartet of Hyvin Kiyeng, Purity Kirui, Cellphine Chepsol and Beatrice Jepkoech will take up the challenge in the women's final on Friday.

They will be seeking to break the dominance of Bahrain's Olympic champion Ruth Jebet in their bid to retain the title won by Kiyeng in Beijing two years ago.

Kiyeng, Commonwealth Games champion Kirui, world youth champion Chespol and Olympics fourth finisher Jepkoech will be eyeing a clean sweep in Friday's final (from 11.25pm Kenyan time).

They will undoubtedly face an uphill task from Jebet, who is also the world record holder.

Kiyeng said that despite the heavy down pour during their semi-final race on Wednesday night, they managed to advance to the final and were intent on retaining the title on Friday.

"There was lots of rain during the semis race but that didn't stop us from qualifying. I just wanted all of us from Kenya to qualify for the finals," said Kiyeng.

She added by saying that being champion, her goal is to be on the podium and defend her title as the other athletes from Kenya follow in a clean 1-4 sweep.

"We have to execute a plan and run as a team so that we can bag all the medals on offer today in the evening," said the Kaptagat-based athlete.

Kiyeng and Kirui led at one time during Wednesday's semis but it is Gesa Felicitas Krause from Germany who won the first semi-final in 9:39.86.

Kiyeng, the 2016 Rio Olympic Games silver medallist, came in second in 9:39.89 followed by Kirui, in 9:40.53 to qualify automatically.

Her sentiments were backed by young upcoming athlete Chespol, who said she feared nobody and would be looking to floor her more experienced opponents.

"This is my first championships and I want to on the podium," said Chespol.

She said they planned to run as a team, and had also deviced strategies to neutralise the Olympics champion.

"We don't fear Chebet and we will try to tame her because she has been running at a faster pace and that can mess us. The last lap will be key, but it depends on how we get there," said Chespol.

The young athlete won the World Youth Championships 2,000m steeplechase title in 2015 followed by the World Junior Championships' 3,000m steeplechase title last year. She now wants to shake the world once again by clinching gold tonight.

Meanwhile, Kirui is praying that it will be a dry evening.

"The rains made it hard for me even to look up," said Kirui.

In her heat, Chepkoech exchanged leads with Jebet with the polite, Kericho-based athlete leading through 1,000m and 2,000m in 3:02.05 and 6:08.60, respectively, to win in 9:19.03.

Jebet, the world record holder (8:52.78), came in second in 9:19.52 to also grab an automatic qualification slot.

"I didn't have enough experience last year during the Olympics Games but this time round, watch me.

"I don't want to promise but I am looking forward to a good run," Jepkoech said.

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