NAIROBI, Kenya, May 9- Worlds 1500m bronze winner, Hellen Obiri, uncorked a storming African, Diamond League, meet and national record as well as the fifth fastest mark of all time in the women 3000m of 8:20.68 to give Kenyans a memorable night to behold during Friday’s star-studded opening 2014 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha.
Olympic and world champion, Ezekiel Kemboi, dazzled the crowd with his showmanship whilst leading eight compatriots to the line in the men’s steeple while world champions, Eunice Sum and Asbel Kiprop chalked resounding victories in the women 800m and men 1500m races at the glittering Qatar Sports Complex.
Deploying his long strides in fantastic fashion, Kiprop, 24, earned sweet revenge over London 2012 winner, Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria with the added gloss of penning his name in record books as the first six finishers crossed the line in under 3:31 for the first time in history in a world leading 3:29.18.
Obiri blasts to history books
With glittering performances from the star-studded global cast on the track and field, World Indoors silver medallist Obiri stole the thunder and stormed to record books when she caused a huge upset in motoring to a sensational victory in the women 3000m to fittingly crown the action packed programme.
Billed as a procession for Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba; the bristling talent that set three world indoor records before beating Obiri to gold at the Poland World Indoors in March, the winner and compatriot Mercy Cherono eased past the favourite with 300m to go and revved up the afterburners in an internal mad dash for the line.
The vastly experienced Obiri pulled away from the Worlds 5000m silver medallist over the last 50m to stop the clock at the astonishing 8:20.68 as Cherono took the pride of second in 8:21.14, a huge PB.
Two-time World Junior gold medallist and Africa Cross senior women champion, Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon continued her roaring introduction to senior racing with another lifetime best of 8:23.55 to seal the podium sweep for her nation in a race where a jaw-dropping 14 athletes ran lifetime bests!
Despairing Genzebe who lead from three laps to go, fizzled out to finish sixth in 8:26.21, as she became the biggest scalp in Doha.
Immediately after the race, an ecstatic Noah Ngeny, the Sydney 2000 Olympics winner and coach to Obiri told Capital Sport that the 25 year-old Kenya Defence Forces athlete would go on to break the world record in the seven and a half lap distance.
“Obiri is just phenomenal and that was just a demonstration of what she is capable of. It’s still May and I believe she will set the world record sooner of later.
“The 3000m is really her event although she does well in 5000m and 1500m, what we saw tonight (Friday) is a result of the focus we have placed on her training,” Ngeny gushed.
“There is no secret about her rise. Hellen has been doing so well in training and following all what she is being asked to do. That is the secret, the focus on training. She will certainly be the top female track athlete in her event in the next two years, watch out!” he added on the Pace Management runner.
Resurgent former World Junior champion, Viola Kibiwott made it a Kenyan 1 to 4 in 8:24.41 to round off a good evening’s work as World Indoors finalist, Irene Jelagat, fell off the pace to finish seventh in 8:28.51.
Obiri, Chepng’etich, Cherono and Jelagat are in the country’s team for the inaugural IAAF World Relay Championships in Bahamas with the squad keen on shattering their own world record* of 17:05.8 they set at the April 26 National Trials in Nairobi.
Her record-setting victory earned her four Diamond Race points to take the early initiative as Obiri put together a mirror performance of her astonishing victory over Genzebe’s compatriot, Meseret Defar, at the 2012 World Indoors Championships in Istanbul that snapped a four-title winning streak and catapulted her to global notice.
The race started at world record pace before as expected, Genzebe went out ahead with 1200m to go but Obiri and Cherono had other ideas after keeping close to the frontrunner and sensing she was running out of gas, they seized the moment to overtake her on the outside before pressing down the pedal to chase and ultimately land the glory.
Chinese athletes led by world record holder, Wang Junxia (8:06.11), Qu Yunxia (8:12.18), Zhang Linli (8:16.50) and Ma Liyan (8:19.78) from their country’s National Games of 1993 in Beijing are ahead of Obiri in the all-time list and 12 years have elapsed since the athlete whom she replaced as No 5, Romanian legend, Gabriella Szabo, ran the European record of 8:21.42 at the 2002 Herculis meet in Monaco.
Kemboi seals it with a jig
Two-time Olympics and three-time Worlds men 3000m steeplechase king, Ezekiel Kemboi, trounced a deep field in ‘Kenya’s Race’ where the country’s athletes occupied the top eight positions behind his 2014 best of 8:04.12.
Once again, the Athens and London Olympics gold medallist proved to be the tactical master over his local rivals as he broke away with 250m to go, sailed over the final water jump before beginning his victory celebrations after clearing the last barrier on the homestretch.
Waving his arms to wide acclaim from the crowd, Kemboi soon realised Brimin Kipruto, the man he supplanted as Olympics and Worlds titleholder and circuit speedster, Paul Kipsiele Koech were breathing down his neck.
He responded by nonchalantly shifting another gear to pull away and clinch the bragging rights as the steeple king before launching into another of his amusing jigs.
Kipruto (8:04.64) and Kipsiele (8:05.47) shared the podium with the man who notched his third victory in Doha as he had promised on Wednesday.
Jairus Kipchoge (8:07.37), Hillary Kipsang (8:09.07), Gilbert Kiplangat (8:11.86), Olympics bronze medallist and African champion, Abel Mutai (8:17.77) and Bernard Mbugua (8:23.41) rounded off the top eight for Kenya in the very definition of total dominance.