Stage set for Kenyan party

Stage set for Kenyan party

In a race dubbed ‘track versus road’, two proven performers will aim to turn their familiarity with the conditions to another story of success when the seventh edition of the World 10K hits the Bangalore roads on Sunday.

Alex Oloitiptip and Geoffrey Kipsang have both tasted success in the TCS-sponsored event, the former having won it last year and the latter being the champion in the 2012 edition. Those successes enhanced their stature in the running world and when they return to their scene of triumph, sparks are certain to fly.

From an event that once pitted Kenyans and Ethiopians against each other, the World 10K has become almost exclusively a Kenyan affair in recent times, with runners from that country having topped the podium in the last four editions.

Kenyans both, Oloitiptip and Kipsang will look to extend that domination in the Elite men’s event that features three other Kenyans -- Jacob Kendagor, Peter Matelong and Vincent Chepkok.  Two Ethiopians, two Ugandans, two Moroccans and one American comprise the rest of the field and going by reputation alone, Oloitiptip and Kipsang will have a big say at the finish, with Chepkok also being looked upon as a strong contender.

A more accomplished performer on the track, Chepkok has won a clutch of Diamond League medals in 5000M and 10000M in the last few years. He would be using this event as a preparatory exercise for bigger events, including the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow while Matelong, the fastest here with a best of 27:49, can also pose a threat. 

Oloitiptip, aiming to be the first to defend his title here, has left his track career behind him. With a victory in the Azkoitia-Azpeitia half-marathon under his belt this year, he is in good shape to challenge fellow KenyanKipsang, a versatile athlete who has performed on the road and track with felicity. 

Kipsang, the world half-marathon champion, announced his intention to go for the course record of 27:51 after arriving here a couple of days back. With his ability to up the pace and maintain it, Kipsang is capable of doing it but the hot weather could be a hindrance for him as well as for the other athletes.

The organisers were expecting some rain to bring the temperature down — especially with the elite races scheduled for a late start this year —  and their prayers were answered on Saturday evening with a steady drizzle hitting the city. The elite men’s race is to start at 7:45 am and the women’s race at 8:25 am.

It remains to be seen whether the drizzle would bring down the morning temperature. “The weather could be a factor,” admitted Hugh Jones, the race director. “But some runners are more resilient than the others and they will have the advantage.”

The course also looked uneven at many places, especially around the Minsk Square but Jones felt it was better than what it was in many previous years. 

The women’s Elite race wears an open look. Kenyans have formidable presence here as well, with Lucy Kabuu, fourth last year, and Linet Masai, the 2009 world 10000M champion, leading their quest.

Linet, an accomplished track performer, is slowly making a mark on the road circuit and with a third-place finish at the World Best 10K this year in 32:13, she is well-placed to go a notch or two higher.

“It is my first time here and I don’t know what to expect. But I will certainly give it my best shot,” said the 25-year-old.

Lucy, more of a half-marathon and marathon runner, may find the lesser distance a bit tricky but there is no doubting the class of the lady who won the 2006 Commonwealth Games gold in 10000M.

Joyce Chepkirui, a consistent 10K performer, will warrant attention, so will Helah Kiprop, another Kenyan who was the winner here in 2012 and seventh last year.  

The Ethiopian challenge will be spearheaded by Guteni Shone, the runner-up last year, with Ababel Yeshaneh and Netsanet Gudeta being the other entries. Unlike their men, Ethiopion women have had better success here but to enter the winner’s zone, they will have to weather a furious Kenyan wave.

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