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With Kip Keino Classic behind us, focus shifts to Tokyo Olympics

 Halu Lemlem (R) of Ethiopia on way to winning 1500m race against Kenya's Chebet Winny (003) and Mercy Cherono (085) during the inaugural Kip Keino Classic World Athletics Continental Tour at the Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi on October 04, 2020. [Stafford Ondego, Stafford, Standard]

Continental Tour offer fairytales at Nyayo Stadium

Continental Classic Meet turns into springboard for stars to switch into road races.

The Kip Keino Classic meet, which was the first senior track and field contest to be held in Kenya, offered fairytales for global athletics enthusiasts.

Comebacks from maternity and injuries marked the one-day showpiece inside Nyayo Stadium, with world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri raring to step up to road running after 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.

But she has to maintain her tip-top form to secure a spot in the national team to the Japanese capital.

Obiri, the reigning world cross country champion, dazzled the sizeable crowds inside Kenya’s second biggest sporting cathedral on Saturday.

She will embark on an intense training regimen in two months.

The Kenya Defence Forces athlete posted an impressive 15:06.36 mark ahead of former world cross country champion Agnes Jebet Tirop, who clocked 15:06.71. World 5000m silver medallist Margaret Kemboi (15:11.11) settled for third place.

“The Olympic gold is the only medal missing out in my trophy cabinet. So, I am under pressure to achieve it before switching road running. I know I should hurry up since I am aging,” Obiri said with a pensive smile. 

The 2019 season was no doubt a bumper harvest for Obiri. She went into annals of history as the first woman to strike victories in world cross country, outdoors and indoors –a feat Vivian Cheruiyot almost hit in 2011 when she won the world cross country and double gold at the World Athletics Championships.

Obiri won the world cross country title in Aarhus, Denmark, world indoor title and world 5000m crown to be at par with Ethiopia’s maestro Kenenisa Bekele.

Mercy Cherono, the 2014 Commonwealth Games 5000m champion, lived up to her expectations on comeback from maternity as she finished third in 1500m.

Ethiopia’s world under-18 champion Halu Lemlem upstage the homegirls, winning in 4:06.42.

African champion Winny Chebet finished second in 4:06.78 while Cherono came third in 4:06.79.

Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga were among a host of dignitaries that watched the riveting action.

The meet was perfect ground for world champions Beatrice Chepkoech (3000m steeplechase), Timothy Cheruiyot (1500m) and Hellen Obiri (5000m) to test their form.

Chepkoech said: “It was a very good race and I am pleased to win at home.

“I wanted to run below 9:10 but unfortunately, it was not possible because of the conditions and I will focus on recovery before embarking on preparations towards the Olympic in Tokyo.”

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