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Yehualaw chases world 10km record in Valencia


Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw (© NN Running Team)

Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw will try to break her own world 10km record at the 10K Valencia Ibercaja, a World Athletics Label road race, on Sunday (15).

The 23-year-old returns to the Spanish coastal city that has witnessed multiple world records over the past few years. Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto set the current men’s world record with his impressive 26:24 performance in 2020, and this year organisers hope to match that feat in the women’s event

Yehualaw improved the previous women’s world 10km record to 29:14 in Castellon last February. That time has only been bettered by two athletes for 10,000m on the track: her compatriot Letesenbet Gidey, who holds the world record with 29:01:03, and Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, who clocked 29:06.82.

Yehualaw had hoped to break the world record at last year’s 10K Valencia, but a positive Covid test ruled her out of the event. She then re-scheduled her world record attack for Castellon seven weeks later. The Ethiopian ace made a successful marathon debut in Hamburg in April, clocking the then quickest time for a debutante of 2:17:23, while her last appearance came in October at the London Marathon, where she also took victory in another scorching time of 2:17:26.

Yehualaw, who arrived in Valencia on Thursday morning, will be paced by her compatriots Genetu Molalign Yehualaw and Tolcha Guta Beyene. Ideally, they will travel at a 2:55/km pace to secure a solid world record assault.

In addition to Yehualaw, there will be another five women who have gone under the 31:00 barrier. That list includes the Kenyan trio of Vicoty Chepngeno, Jesca Chelangat and Naomi Chepngeno, plus the Ugandan duo of Sarah Chelangat and Stella Chesang.

The 29-year-old Vicoty Chepngeno finished runner-up last year in Castellon thanks to a lifetime best of 30:14, while Jesca Chelangat improved her PB to 30:23 in Prague in September to take second place there and Naomi Chepngeno boasts a 30:34 career best set in Laredo in 2021.

The 21-year-old Sarah Chelangat managed a 30:31 clocking in Brasov last September, while Chesang holds a 30:40 PB set in Cape Town in May before she finished just outside the medals at the Commonwealth Games over 10,000m.

The European challenge will be headed by Germany’s European cross country bronze medallist Alina Reh, a 31:21 performer, together with Sweden’s Sarah Lahti, who ran a national record of 31:18 in Ibiza last year, and the British pair of 31:12 runner Samantha Harrison and 2016 European 5000m bronze medallist Steph Twell, who ran 31:55 in 2019 and more recently clocked 32:14 in Houilles last month.

Wide open men’s contest

The men’s event is also shaping up well as the line-up includes three athletes who have dipped under 27:00 for the distance: Kenyans Weldon Kipkirui and Richard Yator, plus Burundi’s Rodrigue Kwizera.

Kipkirui finished runner-up in Brasov last September in 26:55, while Yator holds a 26:54.76 clocking on the track achieved in Yokohama eight months ago. Last year’s World Cross Country Tour victor Kwizera has lately been focused on that surface, but the Castellon-based rising star will try to run quicker than the 26:56 he managed in Herzogenaurach last year.

Yet the most decorated athlete in contention on Sunday will be Kenya’s Jacob Krop, as the 21-year-old bagged silver at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon in the 5000m, a distance at which he boasts the seventh-fastest time in history courtesy of his 12:45.71 win at the Diamond League in Brussels last year. Krop already knows Valencia’s circuit as he came third last year in a PB of 27:23.

Watch out too for his fellow Kenyans Daniel Kosen, who ran 27:19 in Brasov, and the trio of Patrick Mosin, Isaac Too and Laban Kiplimo, who recorded respective times of 27:27, 27:29 and 27:33 in Prague last September.

Uganda’s 17-year-old Rogers Kibet improved his 10,000m best to 27:31.08 in Hengelo last June and might also be a factor, and the same goes for Sudan’s Dominic Lokinyomo, who enjoyed a fantastic 2022 season setting lifetime bests over a range of distances including 3000m (7:29.48), 5000m (12:52.15) and half marathon (59:12).

Spain’s 1500m specialist Abderrahman El Khayami will take on the pacing duties over the opening 3000m, which should be reached in 8:00 in the hunt for a sub-27:00 time.

Some of the finest European specialists will be on show, including France’s Morhad Amdouni (10,000m PB of 27:23.39), Jimmy Gressier (27:24.51), Norway’s Sondre Moen (27:24.78), Britain’s Andrew Butchart (27:36.77) and Spain’s Jesus Ramos (27:49.72).

Weather forecasters predict a pleasant and sunny day, with the thermometer at an ideal 10/12ºC by the time of the event.

Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics