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Obiri favourite in San Giorgio su Legnano

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Hellen Obiri wins the Campaccio women’s race in 2017. PHOTO/IAAF

SAN GIORGIO SU LEGNANO, Italy, Jan 5- World and Olympic medalist Hellen Obiri will be in the spotlight at the 61st edition of the Campaccio race in San Giorgio su Legnano on Saturday, the first Italian leg of the 2017-18 IAAF Cross Country Permit series.

Obiri, the world 5000m champion, will be targetting back-to-back Campaccio wins after defeating Faith Kipyegon and Agnes Tirop in the 2017 edition. The Kenyan star crossed the finish-line in 18:32 to smash Alice Aprot’s 18:56 course record set in 2016.

That win was the springboard to a very successful season for the 29-year-old, whose 2017 laurels included an IAAF Diamond League trophy powered by a series of impressive results including her 14:18.37 PB at the Golden Gala in Rome and three more wins in Shanghai, Monaco and at the final in Brussels.

Her career honours include 2016 Olympic 5000m silver, world indoor 3000m gold (2012) and silver (2014) and world 1500m bronze (2013).

Tirop, the 2015 world cross country champion at 19, followed up her third place in San Giorgio su Legnano last January with a successful season of her own highlighted by a bronze medal finish in the 10,000m at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 and will be looking to start her 2018 season on a high note.

Agnes Tirop in a past Cross Country race

Tirop illustrated her good form last Sunday by winning the Boclassic 5 km with a 15:30 course record.

The top Kenyan trio is completed by Lilian Kasait, bronze medallist at the World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017.

The 20-year-old captured the world youth 3000m title in 2013 and struck world U20 silver in 2014. Last season she improved her lifetime best in the 3000m to 8:32.73 and the 5000m to 14:36.80.

The Ethiopian challenge will be led by Gete Alemayeu, who will run her first race outside of her country.

The US contingent will be represented by marathoner Desirée Linden, who was seventh in the Olympic marathon in Rio de Janeiro and more recently finished fourth at last year’s Boston Marathon.

Kenyan turned American Paul Chelimo leads the men’s field. The US middle distance runner took Olympic 5000m bronze in 2016 and silver over this distance at the World Championships last year.

He’ll take on Norway’s Sondre Nordstad Moen, who clocked 59:47 in the Valencia Half Marathon in October and set a European marathon record with a 2:05:48 run in Fukuoka last December.

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