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Koech, Serem lead Kenya’s medal hunt in steeplechase

ATHLETICS By Denis Okeyo | August 22nd 2021
From left- Kenya team winners of in 4x400m relay men Joshua Ndombi, Dennis Kimeu, Elkana Chemelil and Peter Kithome during World Athletics U20 Championships at the Moi International Sports Complex. Aug 21, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

After putting up strong wins in the semifinals, Kenyan duo of Simon Koech and Amos Serem now hope to secure a podium finish in the men’s 3000m steeplechase finals as curtains fall on the World U20 Athletics Championships at Kasarani Stadium today.

Bomet-based Koech, comfortably eased to victory in the first heat of his semifinals clocking 8:52.43 ahead of Ethiopia’s Samuel Firewu to show a clear intention of recapturing the event’s title Kenya lost to Ethiopian in 2018.

Serem also won his heat against Ethiopia’s Tadese Tekele in 8:29.98 to set up what is expected to be a thrilling final today.  

“I’m aware of the Ethiopian’s capabilities, that shows the final will be an interesting race. This is a real battle and I’ve to prepare accordingly,” said Koech.

In the women’s 1500m duel, Kenya’s representatives Winnie Jemutai and Purity Chepkirui are equally aiming to reclaim the event’s title from the Ethiopians. Kenya last won the title in 2012 Barcelona through the current Olympic 1500m champion Faith Chepng’etich.

But it will not be a walk in the park for the Kenyans as they face stiff competition from Diribe Welteji and Hiwot Mehari.

Moroccan Meryeme Azrour and Hungarian Zita Urban are the other medal contenders for the event.

“We have a perfect strategy on how to approach the finals. I want to do well and succeed in athletics so that I can be able to support my parents,” said Chepkirui.

The women’s 5000m will also present an epic battle between the host nation and their traditional rivals Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has traditionally had a strong hold in this event but they surrendered a winning streak at the last edition in 2018 in Tampere, Finland when Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet took a gold medal.

Zenah Cheptoo and Maurine Cherotich will represent Kenya in the race as they aim to ensure the title remains at home.

Ugandans have come with Olympian Prisca Chesang, who did not progress past 5000m heats in Tokyo Games and finished fourth on day three of the ongoing World U20 Athletics Championships in women’s 3000m final.

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