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Obiri ready to defend KDF cross country title



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World and Commonwealth 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri will be chasing her fourth title at this year’s Kenya Defence Forces Cross Country Championships set for Friday at Kahawa Garrison.

The Laikipia Airbase athlete, who held her final speed work at Ngong Vapour Stadium on Wednesday alongside a horde of athletes from other units, said she is ready.

Among those who were at the venue for final touches are the 2014 KDF champion Alex Oloitiptip and fast-rising steeplechaser Benjamin Kigen.

Obiri, who is also the Africa 5,000m champion, said her ultimate dream is to represent Kenya for the first time at the World Cross Country slated for March 30 this year in Aarhus, Denmark.

But Obiri will have to get the ticket from the National Cross Country Championships planned for February 23 at Eldoret Sports Club.

Obiri will once again face world half marathon record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei (Marsabit), the 2018 World Half Marathon silver medallist, Berlin Marathon champion Gladys Cherono (Kahawa), who won the title in 2013, the 2015 champion Selah Jepleting (lanet) and Perin Nenkampi.

“I love such challenges since they’re part of my preparations ahead of my world title defence  in October this year in Doha,” said Obiri, who is intending to double in 5,000m and 10,000m.

 “I know it’s a busy season where I will have to attain the qualifying time in 10,000m.”

Obiri withstood a late charge from Jepkosgei to retain Kenya Defence Forces Cross Country women’s 10km title last year at the Moi Airbase.

The feat saw the 2016 Rio Olympics 5,000m silver medallist, complete a hat-trick, having reclaimed the title she won for the first time in 2014.

Obiri is fresh from wining the Nyandarua leg of the Athletics Kenya Cross Country Series last month and Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza, the fifth leg of this winter’s IAAF Cross Country Permit meetings, in the Spanish town of Elgoibar 13 days ago.

Oloitiptip and Kigen will be out to wrest the men’s title from Marsabit’s Hillary Kering.

Last year, Kering finally exorcised the demons that saw him play second fiddle several times to win, beating Frankline Ngelel (Laikipia) and John Chepkwony (Thika).

“It’s my dream to represent my country in Denmark but I must clear the KDF and National Cross hurdles first and I hope to do so,” said Oloitiptip, who was a reserve in Team Kenya for the World Half Marathon last year in Valencia, Spain.