Obiri eyes Shanghai DL after defending KDF title

Joyciline Jepkosgei (in maroon bib) sticks behind Hellen Obiri (1004) as she leads pack in the 5,000...
Joyciline Jepkosgei (in maroon bib) sticks behind Hellen Obiri (1004) as she leads pack in the 5,000m women final race during the Kenya Defence Force Athletics championship 2017 at the Nyayo national stadium on May 09, 2017. Obiri won the race with a time of 15:43.2. Photo/Stafford Ondego/

Olympic 5000m silver medalist Helen Obiri shifted focus to the IAAF Shanghai Diamond League as she eased to the women’s title at the 2017 Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Championships on Tuesday.

Obiri faced a rich yet familiar field but ran a controlled race on her way to defending her crown, winning in 15:43.2 ahead of Houston Half Marathon winner Veronicah Nyaruai Wanjiru (15:51.6) and Joycline Jepkosgei (15:54.9).

Africa Cross silver medallist and third finisher last year Sheila Chepkirui clocked a distant 16:04.9 for a fourth place finish.

Obiri who staged a remarkable return from maternity leave last year when she won in 15 minutes and 21.8 seconds, ran most of the race behind Jepkosgei who was fresh from setting the World Half Marathon record of 1:04:52 in Prague last month.

“I knew that even if I pulled away no one was going to catch me so I decided to make my move early. I should have stepped up the pace with five laps to go but felt I was going to burn out,” Obiri said in her post-race interview.

Tucked in the leading pack of four was Nyaruai, the 2005 world U18 and 2006 world U20 3000m champion and Chepkirui but with three laps to go Obiri, the 2012 World Indoor 3,000m champion burst forward.

Jepkosgei attempted a similar surge but had not enough kick to contend with Obiri’s pace as Nyaruai came closing in to lead the chase for second place.

Facing little opposition in the final two kilometers, Obiri who relegated Olympic 10000m gold medallist and record holder Almaz Ayana to bronze last year in Rio sustained her pace to charge home for a comfortable win.

Quizzed about target for the August World Champions, Obiri said the absence of reigning Olympic 5000m championship means she tackles the threat of Ayana in her bid to strike the gold.

“I can do it and especially now that Vivian is not there it means I have to work extra hard to ensure I bring Kenya glory. I’m sure that this time I’ll post better results considering last time I was training for two events but now it’s just the 5000m race,” Obiri stated.

In the men’s 10000m, Peter Muindi warded off stiff competition from guest athlete Frederick Muranga to take the title in 29:20.7.

Defending champion Emmanuel Kipsang had dropped off the race mid-way and had looked to be struggling for pace with an ankle injury, leaving the race an intense battle for his crown.

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Story By Matthews Mutai
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