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Jelimo, Obiri craft World Indoors history

NAIROBI, Kenya, March 11- Two roaring performances from Olympics champion, Pamela Jelimo and Helen Obiri saw Kenya post a historic performance at the World Indoor Championships in Turkey.

Jelimo delivered an emphatic statement that she is something close to her best with a world leading 1:58.83 to bag Kenya’s first ever gold in the women 800m and 20 minutes later, Obiri replicated the fete in the women 3000m as she stunned four-time champion, Meseret Defar in 8:37.16.

It was the country’s best ever performance in the history of the event having previously won only a lone gold at the 2006 edition in Moscow through Olympics men champion, Wilfred Bungei.

The much vilified Olympics 800m women champion stormed back to the apex of her sport with a storming victory in the women four-lap race to set the Kenyan party rolling in Istanbul.

Jelimo motored around the track to banish three-years of hurt that dogged her since her memorable 2008 season when she won the outdoors Olympics title where unlike before, she sat back at the field before pouncing for victory at the last 300m.

Qualifying to the finals as a fastest loser, Jelimo bid her time in fourth place as the runners went through the two-laps with American runner, Erica Moore taking the finalists through 200m in 28:13 and 400m in 57.69.

Ukraine’s Nataliia Lupu took charge at the bell where she crossed the 600m in 1:28.07 with Jelimo shifting the gears to pull just behind her.

Lupu tried to breakaway at the back straight but the Olympic champion took the lead as they came in for the final bend before deploying the afterburners to charge to the line- in a rendition of her breakout year- to romp home in the world leading time.

Jelimo thus became the first woman from her nation to bag the World Indoors title and only the second Kenyan after Bungei.

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Lupu led the challengers’ home for silver in a career best 1:59.67 with Moore closing the podium in 1:59.67.

And in one of the shocks of the competition, four-time women 3000m titleholder, Ethiopia’s Defar seemed set to bag a history making fifth as she powered away at the bell but Obiri, a debutant at this event pursued her, pulled level, before zooming away from the great to arrive home in 8:37.16.

Stunned Defar came in the bridesmaid position in 8:38.26 with compatriot Gelete Burka (8:40.18) taking bronze ahead of twice world championships silver winner, Sylvia Kibet (8:40.50) in fourth.

Before Jelimo hit the track, former Commonwealth champion, Augustine Choge won the first medals for Team Kenya in Istanbul with silver in the men 3000m while competriot, Edwin Soi who finished in the bronze position, was disqualified.

From the gun, Choge and Soi hit the front and led through the opening exchanges before the world 5000m, the British runner, Mo Farah took the lead with three left.

At the bell, Kenyan born American and defending champion, Bernard Lagat, nosed to the lead with Choge chasing hard as they pounded the back straight.

At the final curve, Lagat, 37, who had timed his race to perfection, opened up his gifted legs to power away from Choge (7:41.77) to the lien for gold in 7:41.44 as team mate Soi fought hard to finish in 7:41.78 ahead of Farah but after being initially disqualified, he was re-instated back to the bronze ahead of the Briton.

But the day surely belonged to Jelimo, whose sensational collapse after her fairytale 2008 season begun when she crashed out of the 2009 Berlin World Championships at the semi-final stage.

Jelimo, who was fading fast in the memories of distance running enthusiasts, was once again thrust to the national limelight when she posted her first sub 2:00 performance on her indoor debut over two-laps in France where she returned 1:59.10 for second.

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She resurfaced to offer her story saying, “I ran so many races at such a high pace. After 2008, I had to recover and my body did not respond as I expected. I trained so hard and all over a sudden I got an injury.

“I participated in the Kenyan Trials for the 2009 World Championships and ran in Berlin where I forced myself to run with the injury. After that, I decided to take a break to build my confidence back.”

For Obiri, the disappointment of falling during the final of the World Championships last year in Daegu has been erased in the most spectacular fashion.

The Kenya Defence Force private who shot to prominence last year by winning the national 1500m title ahead of Olympics champion, Nancy Jebet Lagat.

started shaping her athletics career while still a secondary school student, she had illustrious company to inspire her in making the baby steps at Nairobi’s Riruta Satellite Secondary.

Kenya thus won two gold, a silver and bronze in Istanbul that bettered the two silver and a bronze the country won two years ago in Doha.

Among her peers there were the former World Youth/World Junior gold winner, Nelly Chebet Ngeiywo and the 2006 World Junior Champion, Pauline Korikwiang as she set out to be an 800m athlete.

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