World record holder Chepkoech shows she is ready for glory in Budapest

Beatrice Chepkoech during trials for World athletics championships at the Nyayo National stadium on Saturday, July 8, 2023. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

A surprising women’s 1,500m, a dramatic event in the men’s category and a thrilling steeplechase became the highlights as Kenyan athletes raced to secure slots to Budapest World Championships happening next month.

In the women’s 3,000m steeplechase yesterday, world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech made a huge announcement as she cruised to an easy victory in the water and barriers race.

Nelly Chepchirchir made use of her long strides in a stunning cruise to victory in the women’s 1,500m, and in the process earned her automatic ticket to the August 19 to 27 Budapest World Championships.

World champion and world record holder over the distance Faith Kipyegon did not run in the race having competed in the 5,000m on Friday.

The double world and Olympic champion has a wild card in the event.

Chepchirchir had raised eyebrows in May after winning an 800m race at the Grifone Meeting in Italy.

And yesterday, she shocked big guns including World Cross Country champion Beatrice Chebet who was expecting to book the women’s 1,500m tickets to add to 5,000m.

The two-day national trials staged at the Nyayo Stadium came to a close yesterday.

Chepchirchir ran 3:59.77 ahead of World 1,500m junior silver medallist Brenda Chebet (4:03.00), who also surprisingly secured an automatic place in Kenya’s team to Budapest, Hungary.

Chepchirchir and Chebet will be joining Kipyegon in the hunt for medals in the global showdown.

Race favourite Beatrice Chebet could not make the cut, crushing her hopes to double in Budapest. She came in sixth in 4:10.17 in the 1,500m race but will represent Kenya in 5,000m alongside Kipyegon and Lilian Kasait.

“Trials in Kenya are hard. My major focus now is on medaling in Budapest. I will do my best to win a medal for Kenya,” a soft-spoken Chepchirchir, who trains in Kapsabet, promised.

Second-placed Chebet said she had prepared well for the trials in Iten – her training base.

Edinah Jebitok, who competed in the women’s 1500m event at the 2020 Summer Olympics and Judith Kiyeng who competed in the women’s 1500m at the 2017 World Championships also contested the Budapest tickets and finished third and seventh respectively.

The men’s 1,500m was dramatic. Former world 1,500m Champion and Olympic silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot displayed his might as he punched his Budapest ticket in a show of class and experience.

Cheruiyot won the 1,500m race in 3:34.01 after producing a fierce sprint in the homestretch to overpower World Indoor 1,500m bronze medallist and African champion Abel Kipsang in the close contest. Kipsang crossed the finish line second in 3:34.30.

“Now that Tim (Cheruiyot) is back, I am going to team up with him to deliver victory. I will work with the coaches to see what we can achieve. We will train harder ahead of the championships,” Kipsang said after finishing second.

African Under-20 1,500m champion Reynold Kipkorir finished third very closely behind Kipsang, stopping the timer in 3:34.34.

Charles Simotwo, who won the 1500m at the National Trials for the 2020 Olympic Games in 2021, finished fourth yesterday.

Beatrice Chepkoech, the steeplechase record holder and a 2019 World Champion is this season, making a comeback after a nagging stress fracture that forced her out of the 2022 Oregon World Championships.

She topped the steeplechase race in 9:09.43 ahead of Commonwealth Games and World Under-20 gold medalist Jackline Chepkoech who timed 9:14.56.

Beatrice led from gun to finish. She established a comfortable lead in the final lap, leaving a 15m gap between her and Jackline who had stuck closely behind her in the last three laps.

The world record holder was fresh from setting the meeting record at the Lausanne Diamond League on June 30.

“I am now looking to bring back the gold medal in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase.

“I had a stress fracture that made me pull out of the World Championships last year,” Chepkoech said after the win.

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