NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 19- Reigning World 5,000m outdoor champion Hellen Obiri headlines Kenya’s team that will head out to Birmingham, United Kingdom for the IAAF World Indoor Championships from March 1-4.
Athletics Kenya on Monday evening named a team of seven athletes, four male and three female that will fly the country’s flag high in the championship, hoping to improve on its paltry two medals won during the last championship in Portland, USA.
Obiri who began her season early is high in confidence that she can regain her 3,000m title relinquished to Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba in 2014, having won it two years earlier in Istanbul Turkey.
The outdoor Olympic silver medallist over 5,000m has already been active in the ongoing indoor season, having started off with a 8:38.81 at the Czech Indoor Gala in Ostrava late January.
Last week, she made her first appearance since 2014 in a 1500m indoor race but ended up finishing in third place, losing out Morocco’s Rubabe Arafi in Torun, Poland having clocked 4:05.4.
Also, steeplechaser Beatrice Chepkoech will step on the hunt for a gold medal when she lines up in the 1500m race.
Chepkoech who finished fourth in both the Rio Olympics in 2016 and last year’s World Championship in the steeplechase has had a good start in the indoor season having finished second behind Obiri in Ostrava.
Her highlight so far is taking an impressive victory in the women’s 1500m at the Düsseldorf leg of the World Indoor Series early this month clocking 4:04.21 to lower Irene Jelagat’s Kenyan 4:05.17 national indoor record set seven years ago.
She hopes that her sizzling form will see her clinch a medal in Birmingham.
Olympic 800m bronze medallist Margaret Nyairera, one of Kenya’s only two medallists from Portland two years ago will hope to improve the colour of her medal as she lines up in the same race.
The men’s list is spearheaded by United States based Emmanuel Korir who will line up in the 800m race with the hope of making amends for a not-so-good show at his debut in Kenyan colours during last year’s IAAF World Outdoor Championships where he failed to make past the semis.
Korir is also enjoying quite a good start to the new season having broken the African and National 800m Indoor at the NYRR Millrose Indoor Games in New York early this month, clocking 1:44.21, chipping off the previous 1:44.52 record set by Ethiopian Mohammed Aman in 2014.
Meanwhile, Bethwell Birgen and Davis Kiplagat will compete in the 3,000m.
Birgen who finished second in the Düsseldorf leg of the World Indoor tour behind Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia will hope to translate that same form in Birmingham.
Birgen had a relatively okay season in last year’s IAAF Diamond League though success indoors hasn’t been as good.
Kiplagat will be making his bow representing the country in an indoor championship, with his best previous performance being an outdoor gold in the Commonwealth Youth Games and a gold medal at the 2016 Africa Youth championships in Mauritius.
They will hope to follow in the footsteps of Caleb Ndiku who picked gold at the event during the 2014 championship in Sopot, Poland.
Vincent Kibet who reached the final in the men’s 1,500m in Portland finishing fifth will return for the same event and hopes for a better show this time round.
Men: Emmanuel Korir (800m), Vincent Kibet (1,500m), Bethwell Birgen, Davis Kiplagat (3,000m)
Women: Margaret Nyairera (800m), Beatrice Chepkoech (1,500m, Hellen Obiri (3,000m).