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Top guns set for tough battle as KDF hosts cross country meet

ATHLETICS By Jonathan Komen | January 29th 2021
10Kilometer men race during 2020 Kenya Defence Forces Cross Country Championship at Thika Garrison, Kiambu County ahead of the National Cross Country Championships. Friday, January 24, 2020. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Moi Airbase Eastleigh comes alive today morning when Kenya Defence Forces stage their 40th cross country championships.

The KDF action, which will be used to pick its team to the national cross country championships next month, will see the soldiers strive to marshal a strong squad that will represent them at the national trials at Ngong Race Course on February 13.

The contest will see various barracks parade strong teams as campaigns for places to world cross country championships in Bathurst, Australia, on March 11, start in earnest.

Defending champion and world half marathon record holder Kibiwott Kandie will be back for another shot at the title.

Kandie shot to limelight after winning KDF cross country crown last year in Laikipia and went ahead to star in RAK 21km race, bagged silver at the 2020 World Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland, before breaking the world 21km record in Valencia, Spain, on December 6.

He will now return to KDF competition keen to land a slot to national championship and, perhaps, set a date with two-time world cross country champion Geoffrey Kamworor, who is on a comeback trail from injury.

Kandie, who broke Kamworor’s 21km record, will certainly have a point to prove: that he can outsmart Kamworor as they prepare for 10,000m Olympic Games national trials.

“I was in a good shape last year. The KDF cross country victory really motivated me. I expect the same this season,” said the 25-year-old Kandie.

World Champion Hellen Obiri (centre) with other 10KM Women category during the 38th Edition of the Kenya Defence Forces Cross Country championship at Kahawa Garrison on Friday Jan 25, 2019. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

He won ahead of Alfred Barkach and Phenus Kipleting in last year’s meet.

KDF big shots in 2012 Olympics 3,000m steeplechase bronze medallist Abel Mutai, former Africa 1,500m silver medallist Gideon Gathimba and world half marathon sensation Kiplimo Kimutai are expected to compete today.

Thika-based John Kipkoech Chepkwony will lead the Engineers Battalion’s onslaught as Emmanuel Kipsang, Vincent Kiprop Chepkok, Peter Mateelong and former Frankfurt marathon winner Mark Kiptoo of Laikipia Airbase train sights on the silverware.

Reigning world cross country champion Hellen Obiri, Sheila Chepkirui, Urine Kamais and 2014 world half marathon champion Gladys Cherono will anchor the women’s race.

Obiri, who won the opening leg of Athletic Kenya cross country series on November 28 in Machakos, said: “I missed the event last year because I was unwell. This year my target is to fight for a win.”

She won her maiden KDF title in 2014, then in 2017 and 2019.

Perennial world cross country runners Linet Chepkurui and Gladys Chemweno will also parade for the mouth-watering battle.

KDF athletics chairman James Githaga said he expects a good show.

“We are national defending championships. We have some of the best talents in KDF,” he said.

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