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Obiri soldiers on towards women 1500m crown

NAIROBI, Kenya, August 8- World indoor 3000m champion Hellen Obiri kept Kenya’s defence of the 1500m women crown on track after booking a berth in the medal race on Wednesday.

The Kenya Defence Force private qualified from Heat 2 finishing fifth in 4:02.30 to seal the last automatic slot, in the race won by world leader Ethiopia’s Abeba Aregawi in 4:01.03.

It was a rather fast race from gun to tape with the athletes bunched as they pushed and shoved for space upfront, with Obiri choosing to tactically stay with the leading pack led by American Jenny Simpson who exchanged places with Athens silver medallist Tatyana Tomashova until the sound of the bell when Aregawi broke away and sprinted to the finish line.

She followed the powering Ethiopian throughout the final lap running on the outside lane and was set for a second place finish, but slowed down towards the final stretch and dropped to fifth by the time she arrived at the line.

The strong field pushed through her had Turkish Gamze Bulut take second in 4:01.18 with Tomashova from Russia coming third in 4:02.10, while world champion Maryam Jamal of Bahrian settled for fourth in 4:02.18.

Obiri who shot to prominence last year by winning the national title ahead of Olympics champion Nancy Jebet Langat had made it to the semi after she finished fourth in 4:05.40 in the round 1 race on Monday where compatriots Eunice Sum and Faith Chepng’etich failed to make it past the qualifying rounds.

She made her name in March this year by winning the indoor championship in Istanbul after crossing the line in 8:37.16 to deprive Ethiopian Meseret Defar of a fifth consecutive title and will be keen to erase the disappointment of the fall during the World Championships finals in Daegu.

Langat won the title in Beijing in a personal best time of 4:00.03 but did not enter the national trials in Nairobi hence missing out on the London trip.

Many Kenyans are be banking on Obiri to avoid a repeat of the the corresponding male race on Tuesday where Kenya surrendered her title to Algeria after a dismal display by the three participants despite their world leading times.

– By Tony Kariuki

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