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It's lonely battle for Chespol in steeplechase as 800m men start chase for glory

Celliphine Chepteek Chespol, of Kenya, wins a heat in the women's 3000-meter steeplechase at the World Athletics Championships on Saturday, July 16, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo

Cellphine Chespol will be Kenya’s lone ranger in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase as she takes on red-hot former Kenyans Norah Jeruto of Kazakhstan and Winfred Yavi of Bahrain in Oregon tomorrow morning.  

Kenya’s other entrants in the event Purity Kirui and Jackline Chepkoech failed to progress to the finals leaving 
Chespol, the world Under-20 record holder to battle it out alone in the final. 

Chespol is the fastest Kenyan this year but she has not dipped under 9:10 this season and was only sixth at Prefontaine Classic last month. 

She clocked 9:16.78 ahead of Marusa Mismas of Slovakia and Yavi of Bahrain who timed 9:17.14 and 9:17.32 respectively. 

Can Chespol stop Jeruto who produced an electrifying performance in her heat and ensure the title returns to Kenya? That’s the question lingering on athletics enthusiasts’ minds ahead of the race.

Jeruto won her heat  in 9:01.54 ahead of Ethiopia’s Werkuha Getachew (9:11.25) while Tunisia’s Marwa Bouzayani ran her personal best of 9:12.14 to finish third.

Jeruto has not competed at the global stage as a professional athlete but was world youth champion for Kenya in 2011, the 26-year-old had to wait for three years for her transfer of allegiance from Kenya to Kazakhstan to be approved by World Athletics.

The Kenyan-born athlete has been dominant this year, winning all steeplechase events she entered. 

Yavi, who hails from Makueni ran 8:56.55 in Paris last month to make her the fourth fastest woman in world history and it will be interesting to see how she performs at the finals. 

Other strong contenders for the podium positions include Americans Courtney Frerichs, Emma Corburn, Uganda’s Olympic champion Peruth Chemutai, Ethiopian duo of Mekides Abebe and Werkuha Getachew. 

Judith Jeptum Korir, of Kenya, and Gotytom Gebreslase, of Ethiopia, compete during the women's marathon at the World Athletics Championships Monday, July 18, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Phot

In the 800m men, Kenyan charges led by the Olympic champion Emmanuel Korir and reigning Commonwealth Games Champion Wycliffe Kinyamal, fast-rising stars duo of Emmanuel Wanyonyi and Noah Kibet will hope to run past heats tomorrow. 

At the Tokyo Olympics, Korir spread his arms wide as he crossed the line for victory in men’s 800m as if to announce that he was ready to assume David Rudisha’s mantle as king of the two-laps event and will be aiming to prove to the world that his 2021 victory was deserved. 

“I’m in great health and I believe I can repeat the same performance I did last year in Tokyo and win a gold medal at World Championships. My aim is to be an Olympic and world champion,” said Korir, who is coached by 1988 800m champion Paul Ereng before he departed for the championships. 

Kinyamal who clocked the fastest time of the season 1:43.54, when he won the Kenyan trials last month is another athlete whose eyes is fixed on the global title.  

“In 2019, I wasn’t fit enough, I had just recovered from injury so I didn’t make it to Doha. I hope to make my World Championships debut in style by making it to the podium,” Kinyamal said.

Wanyonyi, a world Under-20 champion and second place finisher at the Kenyan trials is another obvious medal contender, having won Rabat Diamond League last month. He has a season best of 1:44.1.

Korir remains optimistic that he will be able to repeat his Olympics performance in Oregon despite running a season best of 1:45.85.

At just 17, Wanyonyi who is coached by Janeth Jepkosgei, the 2007 Osaka gold medalist over the two-laps event is in pursuit of perfection as he lines up in senior events.

“My win in Rabat (Diamond League) gave me confidence that I can compete with the big boys, that’s why I’m not restricting myself to junior races. Oregon will be the big stage for me but I have nothing to lose,” said Wanyonyi.

Kibet, 17, opened his season with a silver medal at World Indoors Championships in Belgrade in March and was Diamond League season opener winner in Doha in May.

He has also been named in the team to the world Under-20 in Cali Colombia. His fastest time of the season is 1:44.89 set in Ostrava.

The Kenyans will face strong challenge from Algeria’s African champion Slimane Moula who has been in incredible form alongside his compatriot Djamel Sedjati who has season best of 1:43.69.

Canadian Marko Arop boosted his season best of 1:43.61 and Frenchman Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, the 2017 World champion, will spice up the event.

Reigning 800m world champion Donavan Brazier of the United States has been battling injuries with his only appearance being Doha Diamond League in May and may not be at his best to defend his title in front of his home crowd.

Brazier will be in the company of Bryce Coppel whose season best stands at 1:44.60, former Kenyan Jonah Koech and Clayton Murphy.