What you need to know:
- Jebitok, who is chasing a 1,500m and 3,000m double, will first navigate the 1,500m heats from 2.20pm (Kenyan time) with Collins Kipruto and Noah Kibet in action in the 800m heats from 2.50pm.
- Jacob Krop and Daniel Simiu will then feature in the 3,000m preliminaries from 3.25pm.
That Hellen Obiri and Pamela Jelimo are the only Kenyan women to have won gold at the World Indoor Championships is a statistic that seriously needs to change.
The pair struck gold at the 2012 edition in Istanbul with Vivian Cheruiyot (3,000 metres silver 2010) and Margaret Nyairera Wambui (800m bronze in 2016) the only other Kenyan women to have scaled the podium indoors.
Apart from her triumph in the 3,000m at the Istanbul edition where then Olympic champion Jelimo also struck gold in the 800m, Obiri’s second medal indoors was silver at the 2014 championships in Sopot, Poland, again in the 3,000m.
On Friday night, Beatrice Chebet and Edinah Jebitok will be seeking to join the exclusive club of Kenyan women indoor medallists when they line up in the 3,000m final from 10.25pm Kenyan time, up against the strong Ethiopian trio of Lemlem Hailu, Dawit Seyaum and Ejigayehu Taye.
Ethiopians have dominated the women’s 3,000m with Genzebe Dibaba and Meseret Defar having won multiple titles between them.
Of the 21 athletes entered in Friday’s final, Seyaum and Taye lead the global rankings with Seyaum fastest with a season’s and personal best eight minutes, 23 minutes and 24 seconds, the third fastest time ever behind world record holder Genzebe Dibaba (8:16.60) and compatriot Gudaf Tsegay (8:22.65).
Taye is ranked second with a 10th fastest all-time 8:26.77 while wild-card entry Hailu (8:29.28) is the 16th fastest ever.
Chebet is ranked seventh (8:41.92) this season and Jebitok 13th (8:45.46) among the field.
Chebet’s PB 8:37.06, clocked last year in Madrid, makes her the 38th fastest over the distance with Jebitok (8:45.46) currently ranked 131st all time.
Hence, on paper, the super-fast Ethiopians have the ability to conjure up a 1-2-3 finish with the Kenyan pair playing second fiddle.
But championship races tend to produce interesting results and Kenya will be looking to break the Ethiopian stranglehold, just like Obiri did in 2012.
“This is a championship and it’s anyone’s game,” Obiri, who has now quit track and graduated to road running, encouraged her compatriots on Thursday.
In 2012, Obiri lined up at Istanbul’s Ataköy Arena as the dark horse with Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar red-hot favourite to clinch her fifth straight title.
After all, the Ethiopian was the only athlete to have run faster than 8:35 that season.
And she looked poised to strike again after taking over the lead from Great Britain’s Helen Clitheroe who had thrown down the gauntlet leading at 1,000 metres in 3:01.60.
But Obiri caught up with Defar with just 100 metres to go with a final lap of 29.4 seconds, compared to Defar’s 30.84, the Kenyan legend winning in 8:37.16, the stunned Ethiopian (8:38.26) taking silver and her compatriot Gelete Burka bronze in 8:40.50.
“What Chebet and Jebitok need to know is that in 2012 I was unknown and nobody gave me a chance,” Obiri encouraged.
“They should just go out there, show no respect for the big names or fast times and just focus on their race."
“On paper, the Ethiopians are strong, but that was the same story in 2012… Indoors is not as challenging as the outdoors and I pray for our Kenyan athletes to just believe in themselves.”
Besides the women’s 3,000m final, Kenyans will also be in action in various qualifying races.
Jebitok, who is chasing a 1,500m and 3,000m double, will first navigate the 1,500m heats from 2.20pm (Kenyan time) with Collins Kipruto and Noah Kibet in action in the 800m heats from 2.50pm.
Jacob Krop and Daniel Simiu will then feature in the 3,000m preliminaries from 3.25pm.