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Hellen Obiri celebrates after winning the 5,000m race at the Monaco Leg of the World Athletics Diamond League. PHOTO/World Athletics

Athletics

Galaxy of Kenyan stars to battle for honors at Doha Diamond League leg

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 23 – The reshuffled calendar of the World Athletics Diamond League comes to a close on Friday in Doha, Qatar, and the best has surely been saved for the last with a galaxy of stars set to line up in the Gulf capital, a favorite hunting ground for the Kenyan legion.

A loaded 3000m field will bring down the curtain in the Qatari capital, featuring a clash between world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri and world steeplechase champion Beatrice Chepkoech.

Obiri opened her outdoor campaign in Monaco last month, winning the 5000m in a world-leading 14:22.12, just four seconds shy of her Kenyan record.

She has fond memories of Doha, too, as it is where she set a Kenyan 3000m record of 8:20.68 in 2014, following it with victories over 3000m at Doha’s Diamond League meeting last year and over 5000m at the World Championships at the same venue.

Chepkoech also opened her outdoor season in Monaco, clocking 14:55.01 for 5000m, and she followed it with a 9:10.07 run for second place in the steeplechase at the Continental Tour meeting in Berlin earlier this month.

The steeplechase world record-holder is one of four women in the field with a PB inside 8:30.

Other athletes in the field who stood on the podium in Doha last year include 5000m silver medallist Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi, 10,000m bronze medallist and 2015 world cross-country champion Agnes Tirop, and 1500m bronze medallist Gudaf Tsegay.

All 16 women in the field own a medal from a global or continental championship, or hold a world or continental record.

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The quality is such that they all deserve a mention: 2015 world steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng, world U18 champion Lemlem Hailu, world U20 champion Beatrice Chebet, African Games 10,000m champion Tsehay Gemechu, African 1500m champion Winny Chebet and African Games 1500m champion Quailyne Jebiwott Kiprop.

Meanwhile, the men’s 1500m has attracted world and Olympic medallists from the steeplechase and 5000m.

World and Olympic steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto will make his season debut in what will be his first 1500m race in five years.

The 25-year-old Kenyan will be joined by his two fellow medallists from last year’s World Championships, Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma and Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali, who have set PBs this year of 3:35.67 and 3:34.51 respectively.

Kipruto may have proven time and again that he is the best over the barriers, but this is a test to see who has the greatest foot speed.

The 1500m will be without world champion Timothy Cheruiyot, because he too is stepping down in distance.

The Kenyan will contest the 800m, where he’ll line up against world bronze medallist Ferguson Rotich, World Championships fourth-place finisher Bryce Hoppel, 2016 European bronze medallist Elliot Giles, Pan American silver medallist Wesley Vazquez and Australian duo Peter Bol and Joseph Deng.

Cheruiyot has been undefeated since May 2019, but this will be his first 800m race for more than a year, whereas almost everyone else in the field has sharpened up over two laps and arrive in Doha with sub-1:45 season’s bests.

Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon is another athlete who heads to Doha off the back of an unbeaten run, and she too will move down in distance.

The 26-year-old Kenyan has notched up two victories over 1000m this year, producing two of the five fastest times in history with her 2:29.15 run in Monaco and 2:29.92 win in Brussels.

She followed it with a dominant 3:59.05 run over 1500m, her specialist distance, at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Ostrava.

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Friday’s race will be her first 800m outing in five years, but her two-lap splits from Monaco (1:59.7) and Brussels (1:59.2) suggest she’s ready to run fast and could even challenge her PB of 1:58.02.

Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo, the fourth-place finisher at last year’s World Championships, and 2013 world champion Eunice Sum will also line up for the 800m.

By World Athletics

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