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Obiri storms to victory in Elgoibar X-Country

Kenya’s Hellen Obiri storms to victory at the Elgoibar Cross Country meet in Spain. PHOTO/World Athletics

ELGOIBAR, Spain, Jan 12 –World cross-country champion Hellen Obiri captured a commanding win at the 77th Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza, the fifth leg of the current World Athletics Cross Country Permit series, in the Spanish town of Elgoibar on Sunday.

Obiri prevailed by six seconds over compatriot Beatrice Chebet, the world U20 cross-country champion. In doing so, Obiri became the first woman to achieve back-to-back wins in Elgoibar since the contest became an international event in the early 90s.

The women’s 7.6km event started at a moderate pace (1:17 for the opening 400m on the track) led always by the double world 5000m champion Obiri with her compatriots Chebet, Eva Cherono and Bahrain’s Rose Chelimo tucked behind. Of those, 2017 world champion Chelimo was the first casualty as she couldn’t keep with the Kenyans’ pace after the first six minutes.

Obiri was timed at 7:00 for the first long lap and was never headed by Chebet who ran close to her illustrious compatriot but never surpassed her.

Cherono lost ground during the penultimate lap, which Obiri and Chebet covered in a quicker 6:50. At the bell Cherono trailed the lead duo by nine seconds while Chelimo was a further 50 seconds adrift.

The key move came with about 1.5km remaining when Obiri easily broke away from her 19-year-old compatriot to retain her title in 25:10. Chebet, the world U20 5000m champion, took a comfortable second place six seconds behind.

Cherono, who was eighth at the 2019 World Cross, completed the star-studded podium 38 seconds adrift of Obiri.

Chelimo was fourth in 26:40, five seconds ahead of Spain’s Irene Sánchez-Escribano, the first European finisher.

“I expected to win again this year so I’m very satisfied,” said Obiri, whose next outing will be at next Sunday’s Cross Country Permit in Seville, the Cross Internacional de Itálica.

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“I’ll train hard and will be ready for the Olympics, but I have to see how the season and my training develop before deciding whether I try to double (5000m/10,000m) there or I focus on a sole event.”

Meanwhile, Kenya’s Richard Yator finished second in the men’s race won by Ethiopia’s Tadese Worku.

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