Lilian Kasait Rengeruk and Hellen Obiri secured their Tokyo Olympic Games places by finishing in the top two of a women's 5000m final which saw four women dip under 15 minutes at the Kenyan Championships in Nairobi on Thursday (17).
On the first day of action at the Kasarani Stadium, the session got under way with Rengeruk running 14:52.18 for victory 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.”
Kipyegon wins 1500m
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.
Jess Whittington for World Athletics