Eyes on Kenya as athletes race for slots to World Championships

July 30, 2021. Hellen Obiri of Kenya in action during Heat 2 REUTERS

All eyes will be on Kenya as the country begins the search for a team to the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games, both events slated for July and August.

The country has assembled its top guns for national trials tomorrow and Saturday at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani, Nairobi and the world will be eager to know the athletes who will be picked to carry the Kenyan flag in the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games.

The trials are expected to light up Kasarani, with the country’s top athletes battling for tickets to Oregon for the World Championships slated for July 15-24 and Birmingham for this year’s Club Games set for July 28 to August 8.

From 100m sensation and African champion Ferdinand Omanyala to two-time Olympic champion Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon and world champion Timothy Cheruiyot in 1500m to Ferguson Rotich and Mary Moraa in 800m, Kenya hopes to deploy a contingent that will confirm the country’s global dominance in athletics.

Athletics Kenya said the two-day trials are by invitation.

The World Championships and Commonwealth Games will be Omanyala’s debuts and will be battling for honours with the world’s fastest sprinters after making his first attempt at the 2020 Olympics.

Omanyala displayed a stellar performance when he beat Olympic silver medalist Fred Kerley of USA at the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi.

Cheruiyot, who clinched silver at the Tokyo Olympics, will be defending his 2019 world title in Doha. He was among five Kenyan gold medalists in Doha.

Hellen Obiri will headline the women’s 5000m in the battle for top slots to represent the country in Oregon and Birmingham. She will be racing on Saturday.

Faith Chepngetich on the other hand brought home silver in 1500m from Doha and is eyeing a gold in both global competitions.

If placed in the team to Oregon, Obiri will be defending her 2019 title.

Obiri will have to contend with 2021 winner of La Route du Louvre Eva Cherono, Beatrice Chebet, Teresia Muthoni, Gloria Kite and Mercy Cherono among others.

World record holder in the women’s 3000m steeplechase Beatrice Chepkoech who also powered to victory in Doha 2019 will be at Kasarani to confirm that she is still the queen of the water and barrier race.

In the men’s 3000m steeplechase, Conseslus Kipruto, another Doha gold medalist will be eyeing a comeback and a defence of his title after failing to make the cut to the Tokyo Olympics last year.

Kipruto finished fifth at the Kip Keino Classic in Kasarani last month before going ahead to finish fourth at the Rabat Diamond League meet.

Olympians Daniel Simiu and Nicholas Kimeli will be competing for 5000m places.

Barely ten days ago, the country topped the medal charts at the African Senior Athletics Championships after bagging 23 medals, with ten gold medals - the highest in the continental competitions.

Last month, the National Olympic Committee of Kenya named the country’s marathon team to the Commonwealth Games.

Chicago Marathon second runner-up Eric Kiptanui and Rotterdam marathon champion Stella Barsosio were tasked with leading the team.

Other athletes named in the men’s marathon squad to Birmingham were Jonathan Korir, who finished second at last year’s Enschede Marathon, Philemon Kacheran, who placed third in Valencia last year and the reigning Fukuoka International Open Marathon champion Michael Githae among others.

In April, defending world champion Ruth Chepngetich and Olympian Lawrence Cherono were named in the marathon squad to World Championships.

Two-time New York marathon winner Geoffrey Kamworor and Paris Marathon champion Judith Jeptum Korir are also in the Oregon-bound team.