Athletics: Kenyans shine in Continental Cup in Ostrava

By IAAF: Sunday, September 9th 2018 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
Hellen Obiri in a past race [Courtesy]

Winny Chebet emerged as the winner in the women’s 1500m at the IAAF Continental Cup Ostrava 2018 after leading for most of the race.

The African champion thus became only the second African winner of this event in the World/ Continental Cup history after Hassiba Boulmerka in 1994.

Shelby Houlihan of the US was the runner-up for the Americas, as the Moroccan Rababe Arafi completed the podium to give Team Africa maximum points in the team competition.

Chebet took to the front in the early stages and her rivals seemed content to follow her at a leisurely pace, with the opening lap run outside 73 seconds.

The leader and the pace remained constant for another 500 metres, before Houlihan made the first move. She moved into the lead, but not for long.

To the delight of the Ostrava crowd, the Czech Simona Vrzalova put in a burst of speed on the last straight of the penultimate lap to move past everyone.

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Vrzalova’s lead lasted some 200 metres before she began to fade, while those behind her started to sprint for home. Once again it was Chebet in the lead, with Houlihan doing the chasing.

The American appeared to close down the gap somewhat in the final metres, but that was not enough. Chebet emerged victorious with a time of 4:16.01, with her final 300 metres taking just over 42 seconds.

Houlihan reached the line 0.35s later, with Arafi third in 4:17.19. P. Unnikrishnan Chitra of India was the unexpected fourth for Asia-Pacific, while Vrzalova ended up sixth and the Pole Sofia Ennaoui, one of the pre-event favourites, a distant seventh. Olympic 3,000m steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto sealed a perfect season as he won the water and barriers race.

A Championship record of 8:27.58 in the women’s 3000 by Sifan Hassan helped Team Europe to share the overall points with Team Africa in an event where the latter had played their women’s joker for the day.

Africa’s Senbere Teferi and world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri took second and third place, in a personal best of 8:32.49 and 8:36.20 respectively, and with Europe’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen, who finished in 8:38.04, being the other remaining runner once the four rounds of eliminations had taken place, it meant both teams totalled 13 in terms of individual points.

Neither team was able to claim the eight points on offer to outright winners in each event – each scored seven points. And while Africa was able to double this up to 14 thanks to their joker, it was two points less than they had anticipated.