Faith Cherotich, Lilian Odira secure slots for their maiden Olympics appearance

Kenya trials

Lilian Odira (right) dips at the finish line to win the women's 800m finals ahead of Sarah Moraa (center) and Mary Moraa during the trials for Kenyan team to the Olympics on June 14, 2024 at Nyayo National Stadium.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Reynold Kipkorir emerges victorious in the men’s 1,500m final.
  • The first two finishers in each event claim automatic places.

World 3,000metres steeplechase bronze medallists, Faith Cherotich, and newcomer, Lilian Odira, caused major upsets to secure their maiden tickets to the Olympic Games.

It was also a dream come true for the World Under-20 1,500m champion Reynold Kipkorir, who won the men’s 1,500m final during the Kenya trials on Friday at Nyayo National Stadium.

Cherotich, the reigning World Under-20 3,000m steeplechase champion, clocked nine minutes and 22.28 seconds to stun world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech to second place in the thrilling steeplechase final.

Chepkoech, the 2019 world 3,000m steeplechase champion eased off to second place in 9:22.76 but that was enough to see her make her third Olympic Games after 2016 Rio and 2021 Tokyo.

The race quickly turned into three-horse race pitting Cherotich, Chepkoech and Commonwealth Games champion Jackline Chepkoech before Jackline fell back to finish third in 9:34.86.

With the first two finishers claiming an automatic place in the team, Jackline will now bank on the panel of selectors to know her fate.

“It’s a dream come true for me to make it to the Olympics for the first time at 19,” said Cherotich, adding that she is confident Kenya will end the long drought of a gold medal at the Olympics.

Good and strong team

“There will always be pressure and tension but good mental and physical preparations, and teamwork will be key,” said Cherotich, who made history as the youngest medallist at the world championships last year in Budapest, Hungary when she claimed bronze.

Cherotich said that Olympic champion Peruth Jemutai from Uganda and world champion Wilfred Yavi of Bahrain are beatable.

“I feel it’s our time but we need to work hard,” she said.

“I just eased off since I knew I had qualified and for sure we have a good and strong team,” said Beatrice, the current world silver medallist, who called for team work in Paris.

Meanwhile, it was joy for Odira after she attained the Olympics qualifying time after storming from five places behind on the outer lane to win in 1:59.27. 

Odira, who represented Kenya for the first time at the Africa Games in March this year, beat the Paris Olympic qualifying time of 1:59.30.

Odira beat world 800m champion Mary Moraa to second place in 1:59.35 as they both made it to the Olympics. 

Seeking the Olympics time

Moraa's sister Sarah, who finished third in a personal best 1:59.39, will have to seek the Olympics time elsewhere before June 30, 2024, if she hopes to make it to Paris.

“I doubt if I would have made it to the Olympics were it not for Moraa, who took us along with a good pace to help us qualify… may God bless her,” said Odira.

“I wanted to qualify and Odira took up the challenge well. We shall make a good team. I hope my sister gets a race to try and get the time as soon as possible,” said Moraa.

Sarah’s coach Alex Sang said her athlete will try to attain the time at the Africa Championships starting June 21, 2024 in Cameroon or look for a race in Europe.

Kipkorir clocked 3:35.63 to edge out Daniel Munguti (3:35.80) and Olympic silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot (3:35.90) to second and third places respectively. 

However, Munguti, who has not attained the Olympic qualifying standards of 1:33.50 needs to source out for a race to do so. 

Cheruiyot could have sealed his place in the team for his second Olympics after finishing in strong position.