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Fast times expected as big names clash at Sirikwa Classic

by kenya-tribune

World championships medallists Faith Chepng’etich and Stanley Waithaka said they won’t be under any pressure when they take on fine fields in this year’s Sirikwa Classic World Cross Country Golf Tour at Lobo Village, Eldoret on Saturday.

Senior women’s 10km race will go down at 2.30pm followed by senior men’s 10km race at 3.20pm. Action will be relayed live on Nation Television (NTV). 

Chepng’etich, the double Olympic 1,500metre champion and Waithaka, the world 10,000m silver medallist, are among over 600 athletes set to grace the scenic course for the second edition of the Golf Tour.

“Kenyan events have always attracted fine fields but I am under no pressure here. I am here to enjoy and have fun,” said Chepng’etich during the event’s official athletes press conference at Boma Inn Eldoret on Friday.

Chepng’etich, the second fastest woman in 1,500m said the event is part of her preparations for the international track season that starts in May including the World Athletics Championships due for August 19 to 27 this year in Budapest, Hungary.

“Cross country races have always been going for speed and endurance ahead of track events,” said the 29-year-old Chepng’etich, who will be competing at her first cross country race since the 2017 World Cross Country Championships in Kampala where she finished sixth in senior women’s race.

Chepng’etich, the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympics 1,500m champion, said that besides seeking to complete a hat-trick of world titles in 1,500m, she also hopes that the Lobo event will ultimately help her break the 1,500m world record.
“It was back to the drawing board for me after I missed the record by microseconds last year in Monaco,” said Chepng’etich.

Ibrahim Hussein (left), Sirikwa Classic World Cross Country Tour-Gold Series’ Local Organising Committee Chairman, and Olympic and World 1,500m Champion Faith Chepng’etich, during a press conference at Boma Inn Hotel in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County on February 03, 2023, ahead of event to be held at Lobo Village in Uasin Gishu County on Saturday.

Chepng’etich, who had recaptured the world 1,500m title on July 18 last year in Oregon, USA, went on to win the Monaco leg of the Diamond League in yet another national record time of 3: 3:50.37, missing the world record by just three tenths of a second on August 10.

Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba holds the world record of 3:50.07 set in Monaco in 2015.

Chepng’etich, who has two World Cross Country junior titles from 2011 Punta Umbria and 2013 Bydgoszcz, will take on a field that that has 2011 World Cross Country champion Vivian Cheruiyot and 2009 World 10,000m champion Linet Masai, who are making a return from maternity break.

Commonwealth Games 10,000m bronze medallist Sheila Chepkirui, Africa 10,000m champion Caroline Nyaga and Commonwealth Games champion 3,000m steeplechase champion Jackline Jepkoech have also lined up.

“I have prepared well and there is no pressure but Kenyan events always have surprises. I look forward to a good race,” said Waithaka, who finished fourth last year. 

Stanley Waithaka and Faith Chepng'etich at Sirikwa Classic

World 10,000m Silver Medalist Stanley Waithaka (left), and Athletics Kenya President Jack Tuwei, during a press conference at Boma Inn Hotel in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County on February 03, 2023, ahead of event to be held at Lobo Village in Uasin Gishu County on Saturday.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Waithaka, the 2018 World 5,000m silver medallist, is up against defending champion Samuel Chebolei, National Cross Country champion Charles Lokir, the 2021 World Under-20 5,000m champion Benson Kiplagat and Commonwealth Games 3,000m steeplechase bronze medallist Amos Serem among others.

Fresh from winning the national title a month, Charles Kabathi, is favourite in men’s Under-20 8km with the defending champion Benson Kiplagat having scaled to senior ranks.

Mercy Sang, who also won the national women’s Under-20 6km hopes to add another feather to her hat but faces still challenge from the likes of Sylvia Chebet, Mercy Chepkemoi Stella Chepkech, Judy Chepkoech, Ann Cheptegei and Daisy Jerop among others.

The women’s Under-20 6km race will go down at 1pm followed by men’s Under-20 8km race at 1.40pm.

Local Organising Committee chairman Ibrahim Hussein disclosed that this year’s course that has eight obstacles will be fast after the water challenge was removed.

“We don’t want athletes to get hurt when the track season is about to start,” said Hussein. 

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