Letesenbet Gidey, Hellen Obiri and Faith Kipyegon set to clash in Eldoret in honor of Tirop
Fittingly, for an event named in memory of one of the world’s best distance runners, the women’s race at the Agnes Tirop Cross Country Classic is expected to be the highlight of the World Athletics Cross Country Tour Gold meeting in Eldoret on Saturday (12).
Before Tirop’s tragic death in October last year, Kenya was already preparing to host a World Athletics Cross Country Tour event in Eldoret. But during Tirop’s funeral on 23 October – the day she would have turned 26 – Athletics Kenya announced that the cross-country event will be named after their star athlete.
Tirop will be remembered and celebrated this weekend for her great achievements in athletics. In 2015, aged just 19 at the time, she won the senior world cross-country title in Guiyang, then went on to earn bronze medals over 10,000m at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships. Just one month before her death, she set a women-only world 10km record of 30:01.
Many of Tirop’s friends, rivals and former teammates will be in action in Eldoret this weekend.
Letesenbet Gidey, who won the U20 title at the 2015 World Cross, leads the women’s field. The Ethiopian holds the world records for 5000m, 10,000m and the half marathon. This will be her first race since breaking the world half marathon record with her stunning 1:02:52 in Valencia last year, and her first cross-country race since the 2019 World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, where she took bronze in the senior women’s race.
Senbere Teferi, the silver medalist behind Tirop at the 2015 World Cross, is also expected to be on the start line. At the same event in Herzogenaurach where Tirop set a world 10km record last October, Teferi set a world 5km record of 14:29. Teferi has finished fourth in both of her recent cross-country outings, in Seville and Elgoibar, so will be keen to make it on to the podium in Eldoret.
World 5000m and cross-country champion Hellen Obiri and two-time Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon – both regular teammates of Tirop’s over the years – lead the Kenyan challenge.
Obiri, who earned Olympic 5000m silver last year, opened her 2022 campaign last month with victory at the World Cross Country Tour Silver meeting in Dundonald. Kipyegon, meanwhile, will be contesting her first cross-country race since the 2017 World Cross, where she finished sixth. Despite being a 1500m specialist, Kipyegon has always been a formidable competitor in cross country, having won two world U20 titles in the discipline.
The top-performing athletes from the recent Kenyan Cross Country Championships, held on this same course last month, will also be looking to produce another strong performance on home soil.
Joyce Jepkemoi, who emerged as the surprise winner in the senior women’s race at the Kenyan Cross Country Championships, will be hoping to confirm that she is indeed the best cross country runner in Kenya at the moment. World 5000m silver medalist Margaret ChelimoKipkemboi, who finished second behind Jepkemoi in Eldoret last month, is also entered.
Other leading Kenyan runners expected to compete include world marathon champion Ruth Chepngetich, steeplechase specialist CelliphineChespol, Lilian Kasait, Beatrice Chebet, EdinahJebitok and TeresiahMuthoni. Bahraini steeplechaser Winfred Yavi, the two-time Asian champion and fourth-place finisher at the 2019 World Championships, is also entered.
Geoffrey Kamworor, who excels on all surfaces, is the biggest name entered for the men’s race. The two-time world cross-country champion and three-time world half marathon champion last raced at the Valencia Marathon in December, where he set a PB of 2:05:23. His last cross-country race, meanwhile, was the 2020 Kenyan Championships, where he finished second.
National 5000m champion Nicholas Kimeli, who finished fourth over 5000m at the Tokyo Olympics at fourth at the recent Kenyan Cross Country Championships, will also be competing, as will 2018 world U20 5000m champion Edward Zakayo, who finished just behind Kimeli in Eldoret last month.
Other entrants in the senior men’s race include USA’s 2016 Olympic 5000m silver medalist Paul Chelimo, Eritrean steeplechase record-holder YemaneHaileselassie, and multiple NCAA champion Edward Cheserek.
Following feedback from competitors at the Kenyan Cross Country Championships, a number of adjustments have been made to the course. The muddy section that many runners had found tough – and lost their shoes in – has been compacted to create room for shallower mud.
posted Thursday February 10th
by World Athletics