Obiri out to banish 10,000m ghosts in 5,000m showdown

Saturday, October 5th, 2019 00:00 |
World Cross Country Champion Hellen Obiri.


Hellen Obiri has spoken about how “special” defending her world 5,000m title would be ahead of Saturday’s final at the Khalifa Stadium.

And her opponents in Doha have emphasised how tough it might be to stop her.

Obiri is, on paper, the fastest in the field with a personal best of 14:18.37 and a quickest time this year less than two seconds slower.

Many wrote her off after she struggled in the closing stages of last Saturday’s gruelling 10,000m and tailed off to finish fifth and a disappointed Obiri sounded doubtful whether she would also contest the shorter distance when speaking immediately after the race.

But, a renowned fighter, she was back four days later to head the qualifiers on Wednesday and is now potentially 12-and-a-half laps away from wiping away any bad memories.

“I’ve taken three days to recover and worked with my coaches to find the best way to do that,” she explained after cruising to 14:52.13 for the win, still faster than the personal bests of over half the 15-strong field in her heat.

“Defending my title is one of the most important things I could do in my career. I thought maybe I would skip it and look to next year but then decided I need something to focus on so would run 5,000m,” said Obiri.

“I’ve seen that my body is not bad and I am now looking forward to the final. To defend be title would be most precious, to be a two-time world champion is special, although it’s not an easy thing to do, either physically or mentally,” she added.

There is little doubt of the respect her rivals have for the only woman to claim world indoor, outdoor and cross country crowns.

German star Konstanze Klosterhalfen, who qualified comfortably from the second heat alongside the other two Kenyans Margaret Kipkemboi (15:01.58) and Lilian Kasait (15:02.03), told PD Wikendi: “I’ve beaten Hellen a couple of times this season but I don’t know how she has trained these last few weeks. She is one of the strongest competitors so I will have to be at my best.”

Eilish McColgan, another of Europe’s top competitors and daughter of 1991 world 10,000m champion Liz McColgan, ironically now a Doha resident, added: “Hellen shows me what I need to do in future. The fact that she can run a hard 10k and then follow it up with two 5,000m shows what a strong athlete she is.”

“Her endurance is second to none and it’s that strength that gives her that speed at the end of a race. She is someone I’ve looked up to since I was young and it was really cool to run beside her in the heat. She will be the one to beat and shows me what I have to aim at.” Obiri is more cautious though, saying: “It’s a championship and if it’s a slow pace, anybody can win.” 

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