Previews17 May 2023

Cheptai and Kipkorir Kimeli defend titles against quality fields in Bengaluru


Irine Cheptai on her way to Delhi Half Marathon victory (© Procam International)

One year after setting course records at the TCS World 10K Bengaluru, Nicholas Kipkorir Kimeli and Irene Cheptai return to the World Athletics Gold Label road race with the aim of becoming back-to-back winners on Sunday (21).

Kipkorir Kimeli won last year in 27:38, while Cheptai clocked 30:35. Kipkorir Kimeli, who has a PB of 26:51, is the fastest in the men’s field, but there are three athletes in the women’s line-up with a PB quicker than Cheptai’s (30:16).

“I’m excited to be defending my title,” said Kipkorir Kimeli, who finished fourth over 5000m at the Tokyo Olympics. “I’ve prepared well and am feeling confident.”

The 24-year-old Kenyan came close to his PB last month in Herzogenaurach, where he finished third in 26:54. Earlier in the year, he finished 13th at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Bathurst 23.

Twelve athletes in the men’s field have a PB quicker than the course record, and Kipkorir Kimeli is one of three runners with a sub-27-minute best.

Sebastian Sawe actually heads to Bengaluru in better form, having beaten Kipkorir Kimeli in two clashes earlier this year. Sawe was seventh at the World Cross, and then won over 10km in Herzogenaurach in a PB of 26:49. In between those races, Sawe also won the Berlin Half Marathon in 59:00 – his fifth sub-60-minute half marathon in just over 14 months.

Burundi’s Rodrigue Kwizera, one of the winners of the World Athletics Cross Country Tour, is the third athlete in the field with a sub-27-minute PB. The 23-year-old finished just behind Sawe at the World Cross, and more recently he won over 10km in Camargo.

Other contenders include Ethiopian duo Gemechu Dida and Birhanu Legesse, and Uganda’s Stephen Kissa.

Legesse is a two-time winner of the Tokyo Marathon, and in 2019 he clocked a marathon PB of 2:02:48 in Berlin, making him the fourth-fastest man in history at that distance. More recently he set a half marathon PB of 58:59.

“I’m feeling very positive but I hope that things fall my way,” said Legesse, who has raced in Bengaluru on five previous occasions, achieving three podium finishes.

Dida won over 10km in Lille in March in a PB of 27:12, while former track specialist Kissa clocked 2:04:48 on his marathon debut in Hamburg last year.

Cheptai, the 2017 world cross-country champion, enjoyed one of her best seasons to date last year. She took silver over 10,000m at the Commonwealth Games, then went on to win over 10km in Prague (30:16) and at the New Delhi Half Marathon (1:06:42), setting PBs on both occasions.

“I’m thrilled to be back in Bengaluru and I have fond memories of India,” said the 31-year-old Kenyan. “I’ve trained well, but a lot depends on how you feel on race day.”

The four fastest runners in the women’s race have PBs faster than the course record.

Jesca Chelangat is still relatively new on the international scene, but she has made a mark already, winning over 10km in Durban last year and finishing runner-up in Valencia in January in 30:01, making her one of the fastest women of all time.

Compatriot Vicoty Chepngeno finished more than a minute behind Chelangat in Valencia, but she is a 30:14 performer at her best, and should be in contention in Bengaluru.

Ethiopia’s Tsehay Gemechu is also one to watch. She finished second at the Tokyo Marathon this year in 2:16:56 who took second place at this year’s Tokyo Marathon in 2:16.56, moving to eighth on the world all-time list.

Other contenders include world 5000m bronze medallist Dawit Seyaum, and fellow Ethiopian Dera Dida, the 2019 world cross-country silver medallist, who won the Dubai Marathon earlier this year in a PB of 2:21:11.

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