Chepkoech opens indoor season with victory

Kericho's Beatrice Chepkoech stride to the finish line during Africa Games trials at Moi Sports Centre Kasarani on Friday, June 23nd, 2019. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Athletes converged in Germany city Karlsruhe on Friday.

World 3,000m steeplechase champion and world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech started her indoor season with victory in 3,000m at the Indoor Meeting Karlsruhe, Germany on Friday.

Another Kenyan Bethwell Birgen was also victorious over the same distance, but the two Kenyans went about it in different ways.

Birgen took off in the final kilometre, having been paced through 2000m in 5:06.44. His lead looked insurmountable with a couple of laps to go, but Spain’s Mohamed Katir started to make up significant ground in the closing stages.

Birgen held on, though, and won in 7:34.12, moving him into the top 10 on the Kenyan indoor all-time list. Katir was rewarded with a huge PB of 7:35.29, nine seconds faster than this outdoor best.

While Birgen ran solo for last kilometre, Chepkoech had company over the final few laps.

She controlled the pace in the second half and maintained a consistent tempo.

With one lap to go, Britain’s Melissa Courtney-Bryant tried to make a move, as did Fantu Worku, the 3,000m winner in Karlsruhe last year.

But Chepkoech managed to hold off both challenges and crossed the line in 8:41.98. Worku was second (8:42.22), just ahead of Courtney-Bryant (8:42.41).

Elliot Giles timed his run to perfection in the men’s 800m. Once the pacemaker stepped to one side, Sweden’s Andreas Kramer – a known front-runner – led the strung-out field through 600m in 1:18.04.

With about half a lap left, Giles kicked into the lead and opened up a significant gap on Kramer, striding all the way to the finish in a world-leading 1:45.50.

Elsewhere, world 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith was the first athlete to arrive in Karlsruhe earlier this week, and she was first to finish in the 60m.

Having sped to a controlled 7.11 to win her heat earlier in the programme, she returned to the track one hour later and went even faster.

Her winning time of 7.08 equalled the PB she first set in 2015 and tied in 2018. The Briton plans on having a full indoor season, so it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect her to continue to chip away at that time and perhaps break the national record of 7.06.

France’s Orlann Ombissa-Dzangue was second in 7.16, just 0.01 of Switzerland’s Ajla del Ponte, who equalled her PB.

“Obviously it has been a strange year and a long time since I’ve competed on the international stage, so I didn’t know what to expect,” said the triple European champion. “But to open with my fastest opener ever and equal my PB was really good.

“I’ve been working hard in training and I’m happy to see some of those elements coming through. The indoor season is really important this year, more than ever, because we’ve missed a whole year of high-level competitions. I’m excited for what my next races bring.”

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