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Obiri leads chase as Kenya seeks 5000m title

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Hellen Obiri celebrates after winning silver in the 5,000m at the Rio Olympics in August 2016..Photo/COURTESY

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 10 – On a track she disappointingly came in 12th during the Olympic Games in 2012, Hellen Obiri will be up to make amends when she lines up for the heats of the 5000m at the London IAAF World Championships on Thursday night.

Obiri, the world leader over the 12-and-a-half lap race this season is gunning for her first World title with the best of her previous attempts ending up in a bronze in Moscow in 2013.

“I am ready for the Championship. I have trained well and now it is time to go and do my best. I have looked for that World title for a long time and now, I feel I am in good shape to go and challenge it,” Obiri told Capital Sports just before her departure for London.

The Olympic silver medalist is in great form having set a new national record of 14:18.37 en-route to winning the Rome leg of the IAAF Diamond League in June.

She declared after winning the national trials a month later that ‘she is in the form of her life’.

The former 1500m athlete will be running the longer distance for the first time in the World Championships, having tried and tested herself last year during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where she came second behind Vivian Cheruiyot.

The 2012 World Indoor 3000m champion feels she is in the right shape for the moment.

Olympic 5000m silver medallist Hellen Obiri winning at the Kenyan World Championships National Trials. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

“It has not been easy transiting to the 5000m because it needs more training since one needs endurance. I have worked hard to get my body into shape and I feel it has become easier now,” Obiri noted.

Her competition will mainly come from the Ethiopians with holder Almaz Ayana who already has the 10,000m title in the bag leading the charge alongside Senbere Teferi, silver medal winner from two years back in Beijing and 1500m World Record holder Genzebe Dibaba.

However, Obiri is confident she can trounce the Ethiopian charge especially with Ayana and Dibaba doubling in the 10,000m and 1500m respectively.

“I don’t think it is easy for an athlete to double especially in both the 10,000m and 5000m. It takes a lot of energy from them. Ayana is strong but I think that is where our advantage will come from. All of us will be fresh and full of energy,” Obiri said.

Ayana, the world record holder in the 10,000m struggled in the Olympics where she also doubled in both the 10,000m and 5,000m.

After blazing the field to win gold in the 10,000m she appeared to have been overwhelmed in half the distance where she finished third behind Cheruiyot and Obiri.

Obiri is confident she can fill the void left by Cheruiyot who has transited to road running and she says the Olympic champion who is also her friend has been giving her the tips of winning the race.

Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot (R) and Hellen Obiri celebrate after taking gold and silver respectively in the women’s 5000m

“Vivian (Cheruiyot) is my friend and I always talk to her. She is like my big sister and her advice always comes in handy. I believe I can fill in her shoes, though it is a big challenge but I will have to try,” Obiri expressed.

She will be joined in the team by 2016 African Champion and 2005 World Under-18 Champion Sheila Chepkirui as well as Margaret Chelimo.

“We have a strong team with the two young girls and as the most experienced, it will be my duty to guide them. I will be like their mother. Our first target will be to get to the final and from there see what else we can do,” Obiri added.

She will be in the first heat alongside Chepkirui and her biggest rival Ayana.

Dibaba who performed below expectation in the 1500m finishing last will be in the second heat alongside Chelimo, seeking to make amends.

During the last championship in Beijing, China, Kenya missed out on the medals with Ayana, Teferi and Dibaba sweeping the podium for Ethiopia.

Kenya finished in the positions 4-7 with Viola Kibiwott, Mercy Cherono, Janet Kisa and Irene Cheptai coming across in those respective places.

Kenya’s last win in the race was in 2011 in Daegu, South Korea where Cheruiyot led Silvia Jebiwott Kibet to a 1-2 finish. In Moscow 2013, Kenya picked only one medal, Cherono winning silver.

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