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Kipyegon plots title assault in Kampala

Faith Kipyegon in action during the Athletics Kenya National Cross Country Trials. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 22 – Having won two Junior World Cross Country titles, Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon has set her sights on winning the senior women’s race at the 2017 edition in Kampala, Uganda on March 26.

Kipyegon will be joined in the team by defending World Champion Agnes Tirop, African champion Alice Aprot, World 3000m steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng, 2008 Junior Cross silver medallist Irene Cheptai who won the national trials and World Youth 3000m champion Lilian Kasait.

Kipyegon, 23, announced her entrance into the athletics scene in 2011, cruising to the junior title in the Spanish coastal city of Punta Umbria, just a year after finishing fourth in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

She returned to the Polish city in 2013 where she won her second junior title.

And now she is hoping to pick the seniors title in Kampala to complete a successful cross country image.

“I am so happy to have made the team and now the task is to work hard in training and when we go to Kampala, we do our best to get the title home. Having won the juniors, it would be good also to add a senior title,” Kipyegon, who won the Olympic 1500m gold in Rio noted.

Faith Kipyegon in action during the National Trials where she finished third.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

The 1500m World Junior and World Youth champion missed out on a ticket to the 2015 World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China after picking up an injury during the national trials at the Uhuru Gardens.

She was reduced to tears at that time, but those tears of sadness turned into tears of joy when she finished third at the national trials last Saturday, making the cut for the team.

“I feel great that this year I am in good shape and I don’t have any injury. It was tough for me then, but I am pleased I made the team this time. Last year I failed to make the team for the African Cross Country championship so it is great to earn this ticket. That was my biggest target,” she added.

Kipyegon says she will be using the treacherous 10km race in Kampala to prepare for the August IAAF World Athletics Championships in London as she bids for her first ever world title. She finished fifth at her first attempt in Moscow 2013 and picked silver during the last championships in Beijing in 2015.

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For the first time, the women will compete over 10km as opposed to the previous 8km and all who made it into the Kenyan team have admitted they will have to dig deeper to ensure they get used to the 2km extension.

“It is tough, but rules are rules we have to follow them. It was a challenge during the trials but hopefully during the coming weeks of training, we will be able to adopt very well,” Kipyegon opined.

Irene Cheptai competes with Faith Kipyegon at the National Cross Country Trials 10km women.PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Aprot, who had led for most of the way during the national championships admitted to have been caught by surprise, saying her mind was still locked on a tactical run for the previous 8km.

Meanwhile, Tirop who hasn’t been in convincing shape since winning the World title in Guiyang, is confident she will be able to retain the title despite seeming to struggle and finishing a distant fifth in the trials.

“I have had a nagging injury which has slowed me down but I now feel better. I am not at the same level with others and my goal was only to make the team. Now that I have the ticket, I will need to work hard in training and I am confident I will get back to good shape and defend the title,” Tirop offered.

Kiyeng was the surprise name in the final team and she admitted she was equally surprised.

“I only came here to test my endurance because of the World Championships. I didn’t think I could make the team. But since I made the top six, if I will be given the chance then I will definitely do the best for the team. Even if I will not win a medal, I will help my teammates,” Kiyeng told Capital Sport.

The team reported to training in Kigari, Embu County on Wednesday for a whole month before departing a week to the event.

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