Kenya’s Chespol emerging as latest steeplechase sensation

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Nairobi, May 31 (IANS) Kenya’s teenaged star Celliphine Chespol is emerging as a strong challenger to the dominance of reigning Olympic champion and world record holder Ruth Jebet of Bahrain in the women’s 3000 metres steeplechase event.

The 18-year-old has shown all signs of maturing into a big star athlete after dominating in her junior cadre races at all elementary events for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as Kenya gears up for the 2017 World Championships in London, reports Xinhua news agency.

This season, Chespol arrived without an entourage and went on to showcase her talent at the Shanghai Diamond League meeting where she emerged third behind Jebet and Hyvin Kiyeng. Her time of 9:05.70 is a new world record for Under-20 in the 3,000m steeplechase.

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And while she may have failed to floor her Bahrainian opponent on the first attempt in a senior cadre race, the writing is on the wall.

Chespol will lead a strong Kenya team for the IAAF World Under-18 championships, which will be hosted in Nairobi from July 12.

Last week, Chespol set her sights on winning in her specialty at the World Championships in London after running the second fastest time in history with victory at the Prefontaine Classic last Friday.

The World Under-18 and Under-20 steeplechase champion, who won the race in 8:58.78, stunning the likes of the Olympic 3,000m steeplechase champion and World Record holder Ruth Jebet of Bahrain, said she is amazed by her performance.

Caroline Chepkoech, who finished fourth at the Rio Olympics, came second in personal best 9:00.70 as Jebet, who was the defending champion, settled third in 9:03.52.

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Interestingly, Chespol, who was leading the race, had to stop for a few seconds with almost 600m to go to adjust her spikes that almost came off over the water barrier.

The feat by Chespol saw her also improve her World Under-20 record for the third consecutive time in a year.

She set the new times of 9:25.15 when winning the World Under-20 in July last year in Bydgoszcz, Poland before improving it to 9:05.70 when she finished fourth in Doha on May 5.

“It’ s only after I finished the race that my colleague Caroline Tuigong, who was the pacesetter told me that I had run under nine minutes,” she said in Nairobi.

Her coach Gregory Kilonzo, who also handles Jebet and at one time coached Chepkoech, said although Chespol’s rise has been steady, he didn’t expect her to peak fast. “We should expect more from her,” said Kilonzo.

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