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Sitting pretty: Obiri and Choge named in Kenyan World Indoors team

By -By JONATHAN KOMEN | February 27th 2014


Hellen Obiri after winning a bronze medal at the last World Championships in Moscow. She will lead the Kenyan team to the World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, next month. [PHOTO: FILE/AGENCIES]

World 1,500m bronze medallist Hellen Obiri and former Commonwealth 5,000m champion Augustine Choge will lead Kenya’s medal hunt at the IAAF World Indoor Athletics Championships in Ergo Arena, Sopot, Poland, next week.

The eight-member team, who were picked on Tuesday, will have a mountain to climb against perennial rivals Ethiopia, who will field 11 athletes including two reserves.

Genzebe Dibaba, the reigning World Indoor 1,500m champion, who set World Indoor records in each of her three outings, will line up against defending champion Obiri and All Africa Games 1,500m champion Irene Jelagat in the 3,000m race.

The giant slaying Dibaba fired her warning shots early in the season, smashing the World Indoor 1,500m record in 3:55.17 in Karlsruhe before shaving six seconds off the World Indoor 3,000m record (8:16.60) in Stockholm.

She set a world best in the two-mile run (9:00.48) in Birmingham slightly more than a week later. She faces in-form Obiri, who posted her 8:29.99 season best in 3,000m in Stockholm this month.

In 2012, in Istanbul, Obiri won the World Indoor 3,000m title in 8.37.16 to deprive Ethiopian Meseret Defar of a fifth consecutive title. She must be at her best to counter Ethiopians Almaz Ayana and Hiwot Ayalew, the world cross-country silver medallist.

But Jelagat, who has a 8:40.75 season best she set in Stockholm, is on comeback from maternity and might be keen to prove the theory that new mums always stage an impressive return.

But Viola Kibiwott, who was on Kenya’s team to the 2010 World Indoors in Doha, returns to Poland perhaps to prove critics wrong after she failed to impress at the 2013 World cross-country championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, last March.

Kibiwott has made the national team to major championships more times than any other Kenyan but always misses a podium finish. She will carry a 4:13.97 personal best to the 1,500m line-up.

Kenya has no representation in the women’s 800m race though former Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo won the title and set a new record of 1.58.83 in Istanbul.

Augustine Choge, an old guard of the World Indoors, is basking in the 7:37.11 time he set in Birmingham last month. He will join forces with Caleb Mwangangi, who also returns to Poland after winning the 2010 world cross-country junior championships in Bydgoszcz.

Former world 1,500m silver medallist Silas Kiplagat and Bethwel Birgen, who both failed to impress in the Moscow Worlds, will be seeking to redeem their stature at the Ergo Arena.

Kenya’s former World Youth 400m hurdles silver medallist Jeremiah Mutai will face Ethiopia’s defending champion Mohammed Aman, who leads this season’s World Indoor lists with his African record of 1:44.52.

Kenyan team: Men: 800m: Jeremiah Mutai, 1,500m: Bethwell Birgen, Silas Kiplagat, 3,000m: Augustine Choge, Caleb Ndiku; Women: 1,500m: Viola Kibiwot, 3,000m: Irene Jelagat, Hellen Obiri; Ethiopian team: Men: 800m: Mohammed Aman, 1,500m: Mekonnen Gebremedhin, Aman Wote, 3,000m: Yenew Alamirew, Dejen Gebremeskel, Hagos Gebrhiwet. Women, 1500m: Axumawit Embaye, Gudaf Tsegay 3,000m: Genzebe Dibaba, Almaz Ayana, Hiwot Ayalew.

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