Kipyegon promises gold as steeplechasers face bigshots

Kenya's Faith Kipyegon (1st right) competes during the women's 1500m Heat 2 of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 2023 at the National Athletics Centre stadium in Budapest, Hungary on August 19, 2023. [Xinhua]

Tonight, Kenyans will be crossing their fingers for medals as bigwigs blaze the tracks at Hungary’s picturesque National Athletics Centre located on the banks of Danube River.

No doubt, adrenaline-filled World Championship showdowns are eagerly awaited, as the world’s fastest athletes battle for honours in the women’s 1,500m and the men’s 3,000m steeplechase finals.

The ongoing Budapest World Championships started off last Saturday and will come to a close this Sunday.

World Record Holders and defending champions, with the hope of winning prestigious medals as they seek to place their country at the top of the medal tally, are facing off this evening.

Kenya’s golden girl and multiple World Record Holder Faith Kipyegon is anchoring the country’s medal hunt in the women’s 1,500m showdown at 10.31 pm (Kenyan time).

She is battling it out with Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan for the women’s 1,500m gold medal.

Kipyegon, who is defending her 2022 1,500m world title in tonight’s head-to-head battle, easily sailed to the final after outsprinting Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji at the semi-final on Sunday evening.

Hassan, who missed out on the 10,000m podium after faltering and falling down metres to the finish line on Saturday, secured her place at tonight’s final in a third finish behind Welteji.

Kipyegon, the fastest woman in the distance, promised to defend her title and bring the 1,500m gold medal back home.

If she triumphs, Kipyegon will have won Kenya its first gold medal in the 2023 World Championships, two days after Commonwealth Silver medallist Daniel Ebenyo Simiu secured silver to join the global elite as a world medallist.

She will be joined by Nelly Chepchirchir in the hunt for medals after Edinah Jebitok failed to qualify for the final during the semis on Sunday evening.

“The finals wouldn’t be easy but we will put in our efforts and try our best to bring the gold medal back home,” Kipyegon promised in a post-race interview.

It will be Kipyegon’s third world title after clinching the crown in the 2017 and 2022 editions in London and Eugene respectively. She will be competing in the women’s 5000m heats tomorrow, just hours after the 1500m final.

“The main target is to defend my 1,500m title and just run 5,000m to introduce myself towards the future,” said Kipyegon.

Another eagerly awaited battle will be in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase. A gold medal became elusive last year in Eugene.

Former World Champion in the water and barrier race Conseslus Kipruto secured a bronze in the 2022 edition.

Before 11 pm tonight, Kenya will have known whether it is regaining its lost glory in the men’s steeplechase, or the country will be back to the drawing board as it plans for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

The men’s 3,000m steeplechase line-up is a rich field of bigwigs.

Former World Under-20 silver medallist Leonard Bett, Commonwealth silver medallist Abraham Kibowott and rising star Simon Koech will be carrying the hopes of an anxious Kenya tonight.

The Kenyan trio will be facing two gigantic hurdles in their medal campaign.

Soufiane El Bakkali, the Moroccan star will be out for a majestic run in defense of his 2022 title, and in the mix is Ethiopian Lamecha Girma, a man on a mission to send a strong message that he is the big boy in the steeplechase.

But before the women’s 1500m and the men’s 3,000m steeplechase finals, a show-stopping contest is expected as four Kenyan men fight to sail to the 800m semi-final starting from 8.20 pm.

Youngster, former World Under-20 800m champion Emmanuel Wanyonyi will feature in the first heat at, with Alex Kiprotich racing in the second heat.

Emmanuel Korir, who is defending his 2022 800m title highlights the fifth heat while former world bronze medallist Ferguson Rotich will fight for his spot at the semis in the fourth heat.

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