Hellen Obiri wins the 10,000m at the Kenyan Olympic Trials (© AFP / Getty Images)
Geoffrey Kamworor ran the quickest 10,000m time ever recorded in Kenya on Friday (18), clocking an all-comers' record of 27:01.06 at the Kenyan Championships in Nairobi to secure his Olympic team place for Tokyo.
On the second day of action at the Kasarani Stadium, the three-time world half marathon champion – who has made a comeback from the injuries he sustained having been hit by a motorcycle while training last year – achieved the “statement victory” he had been seeking.
A trio of Kamworor, Rodgers Kwemoi and Rhonex Kipruto had broken away from the rest of the field and with the top two securing Olympic selection, it seemed like the battle was on. But world 10,000m medallist Kipruto dropped out with around four laps remaining, leaving Kamworor and Kwemoi to race for the title.
Kamworor was ahead at the bell and as he went wide around the lapped runners, the gap continued to grow and he waved to the stands on his approach to the finish line.
His 27:01.06 is 10 seconds faster than the time he ran at the 2015 Kenyan Championships – with that 27:11.89 being the previous Kenyan all-comers' record – and following that result he went on to claim world 10,000m silver in Beijing.
Finishing second to claim his Olympic place, world fourth-placer Kwemoi also went sub-27:09 and clocked 27:05.51, while Weldon Kipkirui Langat came through for third in 27:24.73 to achieve the Olympic qualifying time of 27:28.00.
Geoffrey Kamworor and Rodgers Kwemoi celebrate their 10,000m top two (© AFP / Getty Images)
“I needed a statement victory because I have had several challenges in the past year,” said Kamworor, who went on to explain the influence of Olympic marathon champion and world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge. “Our mentor Eliud Kipchoge was here, he had challenged us to make the team so that we can go to Tokyo together.”
Kwemoi said: “We have prepared really well and we hope to break the jinx in Tokyo. It was a really good race. I have to work on my last lap since I have the endurance. We had discussed with Kamworor and also had a chat with Kipchoge, who told us that we have to work as a team.”
Two-time world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri was a convincing winner of the women’s 10,000m.
The world cross-country champion smashed her own Kenyan all-comers’ record to win in 30:53.60, finishing more than 13 seconds ahead of 2017 world cross-country champion Irene Cheptai (31:06.86) and Sheila Chelangat (31:10.27).
On the first day of action, Obiri had secured her place in the 5000m at the Olympics but was beaten by Lilian Kasait Rengeruk.
Lilian Kasait Rengeruk wins the 5000m from Hellen Obiri (© Michelle Katami)
Rengeruk won in 14:52.18 as a total of seven athletes finished under the Olympic qualifying standard of 15:10.00.
A group of eight had remained together until the pack approached the final lap, when five athletes – led by Rengeruk and Obiri – started to move away. Rengeruk picked up the pace with Obiri in pursuit, but the 2017 world cross country bronze medallist managed to hold off two-time world 5000m champion Obiri down the home straight. Obiri finished second in 14:52.51.
Two-time world 10,000m bronze medallist Agnes Tirop was just behind them, clocking 14:53.91, and world 5000m silver medallist Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi also went sub-15:00 with 14:58.61 to finish fourth. World U20 champion Beatrice Chebet was fifth in 15:01.86.
“I didn’t expect to win. I thank God for victory and good health,” Rengeruk told Athletics Kenya. “The race was tactical. I didn’t have many races (in the lead-up) but my preparation was uninterrupted. My wish is to work as a team in Tokyo to ensure we deliver podium finishes.”
Joining her in Japan will be Obiri, who made her half marathon debut with a 1:04:51 performance in Istanbul in April and in Nairobi explained how she may switch her focus to road races after this year.
“I’m satisfied with my second place finish, what matters most was to finish in the top two,” she said. “I will go back and work hard in training to ensure I do well in Tokyo.”
Cheruiyot and Kipruto miss out
The biggest shock of the competition, however, came in the men’s 1500m as world champion Timothy Cheruiyot finished outside the top three.
The world leader, whose last defeat in the event was more than two years ago, was pipped to the post by Charles Simotwo, who won in 3:32.75, with Kamar Etyang (3:33.02) and Abel Kipsang (3:33.12) finishing close behind. Cheruiyot, looking out of sorts, crossed the line in fourth place in 3:34.36.
World and Olympic steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto, meanwhile, was unable to finish the steeplechase, stepping off the track after just two laps. Leonard Bett went on to win in 8:17.26 from Abraham Kibiwott (8:17.61) and Benjamin Kigen (8:21.32).
The men’s 5000m went to the form book with Nicholas Kimeli breaking his own Kenyan all-comers’ record to win in 13:02.87 from Daniel Simui (13:05.05).
Elsewhere, Michael Saruni won a competitive 800m in 1:45.81, holding off a strong challenge from world bronze medallist Ferguson Rotich (1:45.95) and Emmanuel Korir (1:46.05).
Faith Kipyegon remains on track for an Olympic title defence as she comfortably won the 1500m trials race in 4:02.10, with African champion Winny Chebet also claiming a team place thanks to her runner-up finish and Edinah Jebitok placing third.
Faith Kipyegon on her way to 1500m victory at the Kenyan Championships (© AFP / Getty Images)
“My focus is to defend my Olympic title in Tokyo,” said Kipyegon, also the 2017 world gold medallist. “It was a really good race here, which I really wanted to win. I know I will meet many good athletes in Tokyo but I have prepared really well.”
The men’s 100m saw Ferdinand Omanyala improve on the Kenyan record with a time of 10.02 (1.5m/s), with Mark Otieno second in 10.05 to also achieve the Olympic qualifying time.
Hyvin Kiyeng, the 2015 world champion and Olympic silver medallist, won the 3000m steeplechase from world champion and world record-holder Beatrice Chepkoech, 9:24.5 to 9:25.0. Purity Kirui was third in 9:25.6.
"It was a nice race,” Kiyeng told Athletics Kenya. “Our hope is to get to the Olympics in good health. We expect stiff competition. We still have a lot to work on as we head to Tokyo.”
Jess Whittington for World Athletics