Cheptai, Mwaniki rule Devolution 5km in Eldoret

Peter Mwaniki (third right) in action with other athletes during Devolution Conference 5km road race in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.[Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Former World Cross Country Champion Irine Cheptai and Nairobi City Marathon 10km winner Peter Mwaniki on Tuesday stormed to victories at the Devolution Conference Sports Day 5km in Eldoret.

Cheptai, and Mwaniki, who is a star in local races won the elite race at the sports extravaganza organised to usher in the 8th Devolution Conference that begins in Eldoret, a town popularly known as The City of Champions, today.

Athletes cruised through the streets of Eldoret town, starting from Uasin Gishu County headquarters within the Central Business District, before joining Uganda Road through Sacred Heart Cathedral before turning to rejoin Iten Road and sprinting up to the finish inside the Kipchoge Keino Stadium.

Cheptai, who is making a comeback from an injury ran 17:04.6 to take the top spot on the podium ahead of Sophia Jepchirchir who timed 17:05.5 to finish second as third-placed Winnie Jemutai crossed the finish line in 17:16.1 in the women’s 5km.

The 10,000m Commonwealth silver medallist said the Eldoret race was part of her preparations for the Copenhagen Half Marathon on September 17.

“We started together with the men, and that made the race tough. This is part of speed work as I prepare to compete in Copenhagen next month,” Cheptai said.

She continued: “I have had a nagging injury that prevented me from participating in the World Cross Country (in Bathurst) earlier this year. I am glad that I have recovered and am ready to do my best.”

Cheptai announced her exit from the track to set her focus on road races after the win in Eldoret.

“My major focus from now on is the marathon. I am not going to take part in track races again,” she revealed.

Kimani ruled the men’s 5km, stopping the timer in 15:09.1. Second-placed, Valencia Ibercaja 10km reigning champion Weldon Langat was home three seconds later in 15:12.5 and Charles Rotich closed the podium finish in 15:13.3. Rotich placed eighth in 5000m at the Kipkeino Classic in May.

Kimani who was fresh from winning 10km in Belgut nine days ago had also triumphed at the Nairobi City Marathon’s 10km race in July said he did not expect to win in Eldoret.

“The Nairobi City Marathon 10km was my major motivation. I have been training in Iten since last year and the high-altitude training is shaping my career. I am now ready to face elites in international races,” Mwaniki, who comes from Nyandarua, said.

The Devolution Sports Day showcased The City of Champions veterans who took part in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m in the show graced by Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba and a host of Governors.

Fatwell Kimaiyo, 76, the 1974 Commonwealth champion, 1992 Olympic 3000m bronze medallist William Mutwol and 1992 World steeplechase winner Philip Barkutwo among others highlighted the 100m veterans’ fun race staged at Kipchoge Keino Stadium.

Former Berlin, Paris and Milan Marathons winner Simon Biwott and 1999 World 3000m steeplechase champion Christopher Koskei Chogoo ran 200m at the sports extravaganza. Peter Koech, the 1988 Olympic 3000m steeplechase gold medallist had also been enlisted for the 200m show.

Amos Biwott, a 1968 Olympic gold medallist, Joseph Chesire, who represented his country in the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Summer Olympics, World 5000m champion Benjamin Limo, Tekla Chemabwai, the first Kenyan to compete at the Olympics in 1968 and Lydia Cheromei, former Amsterdam Marathon were among over veterans who graced the Devolution Conference sports day.

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