World champion Hellen Obiri shifts focus to 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Kenya's Hellen Obiri celebrates after winning the women's 5000 meters race with a world-leading time during the Diamond League athletics meeting at the Louis II Stadium in Monaco Friday, August 14, 2020. (Eric Gaillard/Pool Via AP)

World 5000m champion Hellen Obiri will not defend her World cross country Championships title in Bathurst, Australia on March 20, next year.

Obiri, the Olympic silver medalist over the distance, has opted to focus on 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games where she is yet to decide on whether to double in 5000m and 10000m.

The 2021 World Athletics cross country championships will take place on March 20, in Bathurst, Australia.

The athlete, who works at Kenya Defence Forces, said: “I will not defend my world cross country championships next year. I will focus on the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The World cross country Championships gold was the only title I had not won, but did so in Denmark (Aarhus) last year."

“I think I should give another athlete, perhaps a Kenyan, a chance to win it. At the moment, I have not started my preparations well but if all goes well, I will double (5000m and 10000m) in Tokyo."

Obiri said she can complete that feat because the schedule for the two races is not squeezed.

“I have seen 5000m will come much earlier, which should give me enough time to recover ahead of the 10000m. That will depend on my fitness as we head to the games. It is not easy to double let alone emerge victorious at the national trials,” she said.

She plans to bow out of track events after the Olympic Games.

“I intend to start competing in road races in 2022. I must have the belief and focus to transit to road running. I will need a lot of training."

“I have the speed. I will require a lot of mileage and mental strength. I know everything is possible with God’s will. I will begin my season with the Athletics Kenya cross country meeting in Machakos on November 27 before our Kenya Defence Forces Championships,” she said.

Obiri is among 10 nominees for the 2020 Female World Athlete of the Year awards, having gone unbeaten in three races over 3000m and 5000m this season. She ran the world leading time of 8:22.54 in 3000m at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Doha.

Not bad for a woman who started athletics while studying at Nairobi’s Riruta Satellite Secondary School as she set out to be an 800m athlete.

Among her peers were the former World Youth gold winner, Nelly Chebet Ngeiywo and the 2006 World cross country Junior champion Pauline Korikwiang.

She later joined Pace Sports Management under coach Sammy Rono and Sydney Olympics 1,500m gold medalist Noah Ngeny, who helped her hone her running skills.

Obiri made her debut in the 5000m race at the Eugene Diamond league in May 2016, where she clocked 14:32.02 to beat Viola Jelagat and then World champion Vivian Cheruiyot.


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