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Athletics: Kenyan cross country aces Tirop, Cheptai set for worlds

Nairobi, Kenya | AFP | Former world cross country champion Agnes Tirop beat training partner Irene Cheptai to win the women’s 10,000 metres on the first day of the Kenyan world championship trials on Friday.

Tirop, winner of the women’s senior cross country title in Guiyang, China in 2015, sprinted away from Cheptai on the home stretch to win in 31min 56.0sec and qualify for her first world track and field championships.

Cheptai, who succeeded Tirop as champion at this year’s world country event in Kampala, Uganda, clocked 31:56.4 to also book her ticket to London this August.

“This is my first time to qualify for the world championships,” said Tirop. “The journey has just started. I am going back to training for the next month with the hope of winning in London.”

The pair will be joined at the world championships by Cyrus Ruto as a new wave of young athletes emerged at the trials.

Ruto was overlooked for the Rio Olympics last August but silenced the doubters by winning the men’s 5,000m to earn the chance to challenge Britain’s reigning world champion Mo Farah in August.

“I am happy to win and prove wrong the selectors who dropped me from the team to the Rio Olympics despite finishing third at the trials,” said 22-year-old Ruto, who ran a world-leading time of 13:03 at Hengelo in May.

Ruto said he hopes to win a medal in London as a consolation after Kenya failed to send a single man through to the Olympic final in Rio for the time since 1964.

Ruto beat the world youth 3000m silver medallist Davies Kiplagat in a race where third-placed Geoffrey Koech was disqualified for impeding Commonwealth steeplechase champion Jonathan Muia Ndiku, who fell on the last lap.

Colm O’Connell, a renowned athletics coach who tutored Ruto at youth level, believes Kenya’s future rests on the young crop of athletes who are expected to emerge during the two-day trials.

“There is a new group of ambitious and fresh athletes, who have no fear of their well established runners. They are more aggressive to attack.

“It is good to see this new generation of 5,000m runners to move forward.”

The two-day competition ends on Saturday with a series of finals, before the Kenyan squad for the world championships in London is finalised.

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