Reigning World Champion Celliphine Chepteek Chespol is itching to shake off a series of second-place finishes this year and successfully defend her IAAF World Under 20 title during the women 3,000m steeplechase finals in Tampere, Finland tonight.
The 19-year-old introduced herself to the global stage with a record breaking 9:25.15 performance two years ago to clinch the title in Bydgoszcz, Poland aged just 17 years then.
She warmed up to tonight’s final with a 9:45.6 performance in last Tuesday’s qualifiers and hopes to go one better than her 2018 races to retain the Under 20 title.
Chespol has finished second in four high profile races in 2018. She settled for silver at the Commonwealth Games then fell short in Roma Golden Gala, Paris Diamond League and the Kenyan National Championships.
Victory tonight will be historic as she will be the only female athlete to defend the Under 20 steeplechase world title and blow off the piling pressure.
She will however, contend with a rich field comprising 15 runners eight of whom have recorded sub 10-minute performances in the discipline.
Kenyan born Bahraini Winfred Mutile leads the challengers for Chespol’s crown with Uganda’s Peruth Chemutai coming into the final with a wealth of vast experience.
The second Kenyan in the race Mercy Chepkurui trailed Chemutai in the third heat last Tuesday and must exert extra strength to power into medal bracket. Ethiopians Etalemahu Sintayehu and Agrie Belachew are equally in the final not forgetting Kristlin Gear of USA whose rise in the steeplechase in remarkable.
Hurdler Moitalel Naadokila will vie for a place in men’s 400m final after romping to the semi-final with a heat winning 50.87 performance yesterday.
Naadokila registered the fastest time in all the qualifiers run yesterday making him a one-to-watch in the race. The second Kenyan in the race James Mucheru failed to make the cut after turning up fifth in the second heat in 52.88.
The only Kenyan representative in men’s 3,000m steeplechase Leonard Kipkemoi Bett finished a fraction of a second behind Ethiopia’s Getnet Wale but promised to surprise his opponents in the finals.
Bet who will also contend with Uganda’s Albert Chemutia and Takele Ginate of Ethiopia, the two top finishers in the first heat sounded very confident.
“I had an easy time, I could run faster as it felt easy and smooth. Now I have two days to recover for the final. There, I will strive for the gold medal. They (Ethiopia and Uganda) are strong but I will be strong too in the final.
Solomon Lekuta and Ngeno Kipngetich begin their quest for men’s 800m glory this morning while Edinah Jebitok and Miriam Cherop also launch their quests for 1,500m glory this morning.