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Track queen to skip KDF X-Country, handing Jepkosgei favourite’s tag

By Amos Abuga
Friday, January 24th, 2020
Hellen Obiri wins a past cross-Country race in Eldoret. Photo/PD/EMMANUEL MASINDE

World 5000m champion Hellen Obiri will not be defending her title during the 39th edition of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) cross-country championships at the Thika Barracks this morning.

 Absence of the Laikipia Air Base sergeant who has won four previous titles at the women’s 10km category means there will be a new winner.

 The world cross country champion got her cross country season going by retaining her Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza de Elgoibar title in Spain under 10 days ago before finishing fourth at the Cross International de Italica in Spain last Sunday in a race which was won by world 1,500m silver medalist Margaret Chelimo.

“It is a tough decision I have had to make. My intention was initially to defend my title, but other factors like fatigue have contributed to my pulling out,” said the Olympics silver medallist who was due fly to Mombasa for the annual Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year (SOYA) Gala set for Mombasa Sports Club tonight.

Her absence now leaves world half marathon record holder Joyceline Jepkosgei as the clear favourite for the crown.

Jepkosgei, the reigning New York Marathon winner and who has confirmed her participation at the 2020 London Marathon in April will not however have it easy as she will be  up against  Irene Kimais, who was runners up last year at the Kahawa Garrison course.

Kamais, who won Adana Half Marathon in Turkey two weeks ago. The youngster also won the African Games trials.

Others to watch out are Deborah Samum (Moi Airbase), Dorcas Kimeli (Moi Airbase), Caroline Chepkemoi of Kahawa and Mercy Wanjiru of Lanet.

 In the men’s category, defending champion Kandie Kibiwot of Embakasi will be the athlete to watch in the race.

 He will face stiff opposition from Motongwe-based Vedic Cheruiyot and Moi Airbase’s Lawi Kosgei.

 Others will be Stephen Arita of Nairobi, Jairus Songok of Nanyuki and Vincent Mutai of Garissa.

 The championships will be used to pick its team to the national cross-country championships cum national trails set for at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi, on February 8.

Meanwhile, Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) Council has pushed back this year’s Africa Cross Country Championships by a month.

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