Kenyans to lead Africa’s bid

By Jonathan Komen: Thursday, September 6th 2018 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
Kenya's Conseslus Kipruto celebrates after coming in first in the Men's 3000 meter Steeplechase final at the African Senior Athletics Championship at Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, Delta State, Midwestern Nigeria, on August 3, 2018. / AFP PHOTO /

Olympic 3,000m steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto targets to seal his 2018 winning season as he lines up in the water and barriers race at the IAAF Continental Cup that start in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Saturday.

The 22-year-old Kipruto, who lost his left shoe at the IAAF Diamond League in Zurich last Thursday, will team up with Morocco’s oufiane El Bakkali in the two-day contest and will be up against America’s Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager.

Once again it appears a major men’s 1500m race will boil down to a clash between two family dynasties: the Manangoi’s of Kenya and the Ingebrigtsens of Norway. It’s an exciting affair as George Manangoi beat Jakob Ingebrigtsen in World Under-20 in Tampere and will line up against his elder brother Elijah Manangoi, the world champion, in Ostrava.

Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew, representing Asia-Pacific and Paul Chelimo, representing USA, look the two likely leaders. Both men chased home Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha in the hottest 3000m race of the season so far at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rabat, with Balew finishing second in 7:34.26 – the second fastest time run this year – and Chelimo fourth, both in the race and the list, with 7:34.83. Edward Zakayo, the Africa 5,000m champion and Commonwealth Games completes African line up.

Germany’s Thomas Rohler starts as clear favourite in javelin. The Olympic champion and world all-time number three has been in excellent form again this year. While his 91.78m season’s best has been bettered by two of his compatriots this year, Rohler has had a string of consistent results, capped by the European title in Berlin.

Julius Yego, the 2015 world champion and this year’s African champion, will attempt to give Africa valuable points. “I know I have not impressed this season. I have not hit 80 metres but I will do my best,” he said.

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The battle in women’s 3,000m will no doubt narrow down to World champion Hellen Obiri and Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands.

Obiri beat Hassan in Zurich last Thursday as she hung on to win the IAAF Diamond League title over 5000m, given that the distance is closer to what is Hassan’s preferred event, however, the Dutch athlete may be considered a marginal favourite. Obiri won world bronze over 1500m at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

After taking a whopping eight seconds off the world record this year with 8:44.32 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco, Beatrice Chepkoech will start as hot-favourite in Ostrava.

Since then, the Kenyan has taken the African and IAAF Diamond League titles, bettering nine minutes in both races.

World silver medallist Courtney Frerichs of the US looks to be the best of the rest, having set a North American record of 9:00.85 behind Chepkoech’s world record in Monaco.

Winfred Yavi of Bahrain, just 18 years old, is the Asian Games champion and world U20 bronze medallist. With a best of 9:10.74, she is another candidate for a top placing.

Aisha Praught Leer of Jamaica is also a woman in form, having recently improved the Caribbean record to 9:14.09 in Brussels.

 African champion Winnie Chebet, a 4:00.60 runner this year and having stepped up from 800m last year, will be attempting to earn strong points for the African team.