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Proven Kipchoge leads Bulgaria World Half charge

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NAIROBI, Kenya, October 2- Kenya’s proven medal machine, Eliud Kipchoge, will spearhead the country’s quest for glory at the World Half Marathon Championships in Karvana, Bulgaria on Saturday.

The squad of ten left the country on Wednesday morning at 3am with the sole purpose of retaining the individual and team titles the nation won two years ago in Nanning, China.

However, the squad of 2012 has ignited interest since it features Kipchoge who is seeking to transfer his undoubted success on the track to the road at his World Half Marathon debut.

“This is a different world for me since in the last decade, I have been running on the track, cross country and road races that are not more than 10km,” he told Capital Sport before departure for Bulgaria.

“My hope is to place among the top three to medal for the first time on the road. Running the half marathon was on my mind at the beginning of the season and to make the Kenyan team presents a new challenge for me,” Kipchoge intoned.

Having represented his nation at four World Cross, five World Championships and two Olympics Games winning his nation five medals, the athlete who turns 28 on November 5 has established himself as a faithful servant for his country.

“I wanted to go to my third Olympics in 5,000m and 10,000m but after that did not go well, I focused on a few track races before trying the half marathon and this is the direction I want to take.

“Next year, I will compete in a few track races and half marathons before I finish my track career. Eventually, I will move to the marathon,” the 2003 5000m world champion and 2008 Olympics silver winner at the same distance revealed.

His half marathon debut in Lille last month where he finished third in 59:25 was enough for Kenya’s selectors to turn to him last week when Stanley Biwott, the Paris Marathon champion opted out of Bulgaria.

“I have never run there but I have trained well for the race and that is what matters. I’m confident that the team that we have will go there and defend the titles we won in China,” the 2007 Worlds 5000m silver winner and 2004 Athens Olympics bronze medallist added.

Kipchoge is among of a cast of sub 60 minutes runners who have the brief of retaining the men’s title won by Wilson Kiprop in Nanning and the team prize bagged by Kenya at the same event.

The athlete who won the 2003 world title, 2004 Olympics bronze, 2007 Worlds silver and 2008 Olympics silver in the 12 and a half lap race will be the Kenyan marquee runner on show in Bulgaria.

Philemon Limo, John Mwangangi, Pius Maiyo and Steve Kosgei are the others on the Karvana squad each seeking a slice of the available honours.

“I have seen others win medals for our country and now this is my turn. The World Half has made a name for the likes of marathon record holder, Patrick Makau and twice London winner, Mary Keitany and I want to take my chance,” Team Kenya debutant Maiyo who clocked his half marathon career best of 59:25 in April asserted.

After returning seventh in the World Cross senior 12km race in Punta Umbria last year, Limo is relishing his second outing in his country’s colours and aspires to fulfil medal dreams on Saturday.

“I do not mind the colour of my medal, all I want is to be up there in the podium. Getting a second chance to run for Kenya is a great honour and I wish to repay the faith shown by the selectors,” Limo who has a year best of 59:32 (Ostia/February) and a marathon PB of 2:09:25 (third/Prague) stated.

Arusei aims for golden finish

After winning bronze in China two years ago, Peninah Arusei returns to the squad itching to ascend to the middle of the podium in Karvana to succeed Florence Kiplagat.

“My wish is to battle for my nation with my strong teammates and return the glory. I won bronze in China and I’m praying to God so that my plans to win the gold can succeed.
“I have been training in Iten and when I was told I was in the team, I was grateful since not many athletes get a second chance to be in the Kenyan team,” Arusei who motored to a 68:12 season’s best in Paris where she finished second on March 4 outlined.

For teammate Pauline Njeri, 27, her Team Kenya debut is a crowning moment for a career spent excelling on the domestic circuit before she exploded on the half marathon scene this year.

“I’m so delighted to compete in a big event for my country and I have faith I will perform well. The news could not have come at a better time and I have raised my expectations.

“I have not medalled for the country and this is an opportunity I’m working hard to ensure that if I do not secure victory, at least I will finish in the podium. I have confidence in the team we have to deliver the nation’s hope,” the athlete whose middle name Kahenya means ‘a sprint’ in her native Kikuyu language told.

Her half marathon credentials were laid down when she beat Arusei to the Paris Half title with a brisk career best of 67:55 that is ranked ninth in the 2012 World list.

Veteran Lydia Cheromei, 35, who clocked the number-6 time of 2012 of 67:26 in Prague where she was also rewarded in her lifetime best at the distance, is another potent weapon in the Team Kenya armoury.

Having been penned as a London Olympics hopeful, her 2:21:30 PB for sixth in the Stanchart Dubai Marathon in January knocked her off the running and she is relishing another bite at the national team cherry.

Daegu 10,000m fourth finisher, Priscah Jepleting, 32, who made her half marathon maiden bow in Lille last month with a polished 68:35 performance for third drafted late into the team to replace Lucy Kabuu who withdrew last week.

Pascalia Chepkorir Kipkoech, 23, completes the female line-up for Karvana as she searches for a storming introduction to international after her commanding victory in Rio-de-Janeiro on August 19 with a career best of 67:17 (number 4 for 2012) entered her in the squad as the fastest runner in the team.

Selectors use the world list to choose the runners in the Kenyan World Half team.

SQUAD

MEN: Eliud Kipchoge, Philemon Limo, John Mwangangi, Pius Maiyo and Steve Kosgei.

WOMEN:
Pascalia Chepkorir, Lydia Cheromei, Pauline Njeri, Priscah Jepleting and Peninah Arusei.

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