Defending champions face formidable cast at World Championships in Budapest

Gold medalist Faith Kipyegon, of Kenya, celebrates after the women's 1500-meter run the at the World Athletics Championships on Monday, July 18, 2022, in Eugene.[AP]

Last year’s World Championship was tough. Kenya produced two gold medals, one in the women’s 1500m and another in the men’s 800m.

And make no mistake about this year’s contest set for Budapest, Hungary from August 19 to 27; it is likely to be even tougher as defending champions prepare to ooze class once again.

Double 1,500m Olympic Champion Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon and 2020 800m Olympic title winner Emmanuel Korir – the two athletes who brought home gold for Kenya at the 2022 Oregon World Championships staged in Eugene, will be at the Budapest global showpiece for another tough assignment.

No doubt, Budapest will be the centre of attraction 13 days from today as world defending champions clash with a formidable cast formed to dethrone them and those focused on adding prestigious titles to their already rich collections.

The country’s athletes in the team to Budapest have previously expressed their readiness to throw down the gauntlet in their resolve to make the podium in upcoming championships.

Kipyegon, who is taking to Budapest her three world records, 1500m, 5000m and Mile won her second 1500m title at Oregon22 and is looking to sprint into another glory.

She is already a global sensation, but alongside her compatriots, World Under-20 1500m silver medallist Brenda Chebet and winner of the World Championships trials in Nairobi Nelly Chepchirchir, Kipyegon will have to contend with Dutch star Sifan Hassan.

The Dutch team to the Budapest World Championships indicates that the 29-year-old former World 5000m and 10000m, will compete in the 1500m, 5000m and 10000m in the Hungarian capital.

She is likely to be Kipyegon’s toughest challenger in the women’s 1500m.

“1,500m is still my specialty and the main focus is on defending the title in that event. I gave 5000m a try although I had not trained for it, and luckily, it worked and I broke the record. Heading to Budapest, I will be first defending my 1500m title and during the same period introducing my legs to 5000m,” Kipyegon said during an interview on Wednesday, August 2.

Emmanuel Korir celebrates after winning gold medal in men's 800m final, at the World Athletics Championships, yesterday, in Eugene, USA. [AP]

Olympic and World champion Emmanuel Korir who qualified by the 2022 Diamond League trophy win wildcard will be facing world-class track stars in his quest to defend the 2022 title.

The former World Under-20 800m champion Emmanuel Wanyonyi and African Under-20 champion Alex Kipngetich are among Kenyan stars, alongside Emmanuel Korir, on a mission to retain the world title in the two-lap race.

Korir recently revealed that he has been battling a calf injury, but promised to overcome the setback to defend the 800m title in Hungary.

“I have been battling a calf injury that could have turned worse had I competed in many races ahead of the Budapest World Championships. Injuries have been my major setback for the last two years but I have overcome them during major championships such as the Tokyo Olympic Games and last year’s World Championships," Korir said in an interview in July.

World 5000m silver medallist Jacob Krop and last season’s Diamond League trophy winner Nicholas Kimeli and countryman Cornelius Kemboi, will be battling World 10,000m champion Joshua Cheptegei, who will be heading to Budapest to defend his 2022 title in the 12.5-lap race.

Commonwealth 10,000m silver medallist Daniel Simiu who replaces former half marathon record holder Kibiwott Kandie is in the Kenyan team eyeing glory in the 25-lap contest.

The Ugandan double record holder will be doubling (5000m and 10,000m) and is seen as the biggest challenger to global stars in the 12.5 and 25-lap races at the 2023 World Championships.

Cheptegei is the World Record holder in the distance events – 5,000m and 10,000m and he will be racing alongside his compatriot, half marathon record holder Jacob Kiplimo in the 25-lap contest.

The 5000m Olympic champion successfully defended his world title last year in Oregon.

He set both records in 2020 in Monaco and Valencia respectively, and observers say he could be under pressure to impress in Budapest.

Also, likely to be in the 5000m fray is defending champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway.

When Ingebrigtsen blasted to a surprising 5000m victory in Oregon last year, Cheptegei was in the defeated field, finishing ninth in the 5000m finals in the close contest.

African 100m record Ferdinand Omanyala who has consistently run good shows in the sprint will face Fred Kerley, the American who has an automatic spot as the reigning title holder.

Last year in Eugene, Kerley led Marvin Bracy and Trayvon Bromell to an American podium sweep in 100m.

Ethiopia’s gold medallists at the 2022 World Championships Letesenbet Gidey (women’s 10,000m), Gudaf Tsegay (women’s 5000m), Tamirat Tola (men’s marathon) and Gotytom Gebresellasie (women’s marathon) are all returning to the world show to reclaim their titles.

Irine Kimais, Agnes Chebet Ngetich and Grace Loibach will be putting up a catfight against the 10,000m defending champion while Faith Kipyegon will be leading the Kenyan onslaught in dethroning Gudaf Tsegay in the women’s 5000m race.

The battle for marathon honours will give two billion athletics enthusiasts expected to follow the World Championships live an opportunity to watch a show.

The Kenyan marathon team selected on June 14 will be facing last year’s champions Ethiopia’s Tola and Gotytom, who are among a team of 12 marathoners picked during the selection.

Gold medalist Joshua Cheptegei, of Uganda, center, stands with silver medalist Stanley Waithaka Mburu, of Kenya, left and bronze medalist Jacob Kiplimo, of Uganda, during a medal ceremony for the at the World Athletics Championships on Sunday, July 17, 2022, in Eugene.[ap]

The world marathon title defenders Tola and Gotytom made to the top three in their categories in a pool of 12 long-distance athletes, six from the men’s side and an equal number of women stars.

Rosemary Wanjiru, the reigning Tokyo Marathon champion and Timothy Ronoh – the runner-up at the NN Rotterdam Marathon in April this year will be leading the Kenyan assault in next month’s showdown.

Apart from Ronoh, the men’s team comprises Milano Marathon 2022 winner, Titus Kipruto and Joshua Belet, a Hamburg Marathon runner-up. Michael Githae and Bethwell Kibet are on the reserve team.

At the 2019 Doha World Championships, Kenya ranked second behind the United States of America in the medal tally with 11 medals; five gold, two silver and four bronze.

The five gold medals came from Ruth Chepnegtich (women’s marathon), Beatrice Chepkoech (women’s 3,000m steeplechase), Conseslus Kipruto (men’s 3,000m steeplechase), Hellen Obiri (women’s 5,000m) and Timothy Cheruiyot (men’s 1,500m).

But last year in Oregon, Africa’s athletics powerhouse dropped two places to position four after her contingent delivered two gold medals, five silver and three bronze, making it a total of ten medals.

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