Bekele and Biwott to face debutant karori at london marathon

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Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele tops the list of world-class contenders announced today for the men’s elite race at the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday 23 April.

Already a triple Olympic champion and double world record-holder on the track, Bekele became the world’s second-fastest marathon runner of all time when he won the 2016 Berlin Marathon last September.

Bekele missed the world record by just six seconds when he crossed the finish line in the German capital in 2:03:03 after a thrilling battle with former world record-holder Wilson Kipsang. It was the fastest marathon time in the world in 2016 and broke Haile Gebrselassie’s Ethiopian record.

Now Bekele will seek to become only the third Ethiopian man ever to win the coveted London Marathon title and the first since two-time winner Tsegaye Kebede in 2013.

Bekele made his London Marathon debut last April when he finished third behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge and Stanley Biwott despite not being fully fit. This year Bekele will have Kipchoge’s course record of 2:03:05 in his sights and perhaps even Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57.

“London is the greatest marathon in the world and I would love to win there,” said Bekele. “The field is always the best and victory means so much. After finishing third last year, I know what I need to do to win.”

Biwott, who won the 2015 New York City Marathon, is likely to be Bekele’s main rival as he leads the Kenyan challenge in the absence of two-time champion Kipchoge. Biwott will hope to mark his 31st birthday, which falls just two days before the race, with his first London Marathon victory. He finished runner-up in 2014, fourth in 2015 and second again last year in a personal best of 2:03:51.

Such is the quality of the line-up, however, the leading pair are just two of seven men in the field who have run faster than 2:06. The line-up also includes two marathon world champions, three of the top five finishers from last summer’s Olympic Games, and the winners of the Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and New York marathons in 2016.

One of the strongest opponents, though, could be a man who is contesting his first marathon. Bedan Karoki, the silver medallist at the 2016 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, will be making his marathon debut. The versatile Japan-based Kenyan has finished in the top seven in the 10,000m at the past four global championships and has a half-marathon PB of 59:14.

Bekele’s compatriots will include Olympic silver medallist and Tokyo Marathon champion Feyisa Lilesa, Dubai and Hamburg Marathon champion Tesfaye Abera, and Tilahun Regassa, who is aiming to make the London podium after finishing fifth and sixth in the past two years.

Meanwhile, Biwott and Karoki will have top-class company in fellow Kenyans Abel Kirui and Daniel Wanjiru. The experienced Kirui, who won the world marathon title in 2011 and 2013, returns to London for the first time since 2012 when he was fifth just four months before taking Olympic silver in the same city. After a number of years without a major victory, he was a surprise winner of the Chicago Marathon last October and will be looking for another strong performance as he seeks selection for Kenya’s World Championships team.

Wanjiru will also be one to watch after he lowered his personal best by almost three minutes to win last October’s Amsterdam Marathon in 2:05:21.

Kirui won’t be the only world champion on show as Eritrea’s young star Ghirmay Ghebreslassie returns to London after finishing fourth last April in a PB 2:07:46. The 21-year-old famously became the youngest global marathon champion ever when he won the 2015 world title in Beijing at the age of 19. He enhanced his status as one of the world’s best when he claimed the New York Marathon crown last November after placing fourth at the Olympic Games in August.

Europe could also have a serious challenger in the shape of Abraham Tadesse who broke the Swiss record last March when he clocked 2:06:40 in Seoul, missing the European record by just four seconds. The Eritrean-born Tadesse went on to win half marathon gold at the European Championships last summer and placed seventh at the Olympic Games a month later.

Britain’s 2010 European 10,000m silver medallist Chris Thompson will be targeting a place on the World Championships team. Thompson was 11th on his debut in London three years ago and finished 16th last year.

Sumgong to defend london Marathon Title

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Olympic champion Jemima Sumgong will defend her crown at the Virgin Money London Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday 23 April.

Sumgong defied the odds last April when she recovered from a bruising fall to beat some of the world’s best in the British capital with a devastating finish. The 32-year-old went on to make history at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games when she became the first Kenyan woman to win the Olympic title in the marathon. Sumgong defeated Ethiopia’s world champion Mare Dibaba in Brazil to confirm her status as the world’s top marathon runner of 2016.

Dibaba, who won bronze in Rio behind Bahrain’s Eunice Kirwa, will be one of Sumgong’s main rivals in London from a field that includes four women who have broken the 2:20 barrier and no fewer than nine who have run quicker than 2:22.

"London is the marathon every runner wants to win," said Sumgong. "I can’t wait to return to defend my title."

The women's elite line-up announced today includes all three medallists from last year’s race, three of the top five finishers from the Rio 2016 Oltmpic Games, four previous London Marathon champions, and the winners at last year’s Abbott World Marathon Majors races in Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago and New York.

The quickest on paper is again Mary Keitany who will be aiming to become only the fourth woman to win the London Marathon three times after completing a hat-trick of New York City Marathon titles last November.

Keitany became the second fastest women marathon runner of all time when she won her second London Marathon in 2012 in 2:18:37. But after finishing runner-up in 2015, the African record holder could only place ninth last April after she was involved in the collision that brought down Sumgong. That cost Keitany a place on Kenya’s Rio team and the 35-year-old will feel she has something to prove.

"I love running in London," said Keitany. "After the sickness I had before the race and the fall last year during the race, I want to show everyone what I can do. My goal is to win the London Marathon for the third time and to demonstrate to everybody that I could have won the Olympic Games last year if I had been selected."

The domestic competition for Kenyan runners will be fierce as the elite line-up also includes Florence Kiplagat, the 2016 Chicago champion and half marathon world record holder who was third here last year and second in 2014; last year’s Tokyo Marathon champion and 2015 world silver medallist Helah Kiprop; plus the Olympic 5000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot who will make her marathon debut at the age of 33.

Athletics Intergrity Unit Begins Recruitment

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Just a fortnight after the IAAF’s membership gave an overwhelming 95% vote in favour of constitutional reform recruitment of four senior positions for the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) is underway.

At the core of the reforms the Athletics Integrity Unity will be a fiercely independent organisation with responsibility for the management of all aspects of the anti-doping programme for International-Level Athletes and their Athlete Support Personnel as well as for the management of all other integrity-related programmes operated in elite Athletics. The Unit will manage a full range of functional activities from education and prevention to results management, investigations, prosecutions and appeals. The Unit will also have a key role in monitoring the compliance of Member Federations with their obligations under the Integrity Code of Conduct.

Athletics is determined to lead the way to a new era of transparent and accountable sports administration. The first sport ever to delegate complete authority for the management of its integrity programmes to an independently governed and independently operated unit.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe commented: “Sport at its best is about the pursuit of excellence. It involves hard work, discipline, training, review, reflection, adaptation and change. Athletes are reflective by nature and good at objectively measuring themselves and their performance against the best in class. As sports bodies we need to take the strengths of our athletes and turn them into the strength of the body that governs the sport. The Athletics Integrity Unit will do this.

“I am delighted that the planning for this is now well underway and will accelerate as we head towards the beginning of April 2017 when the unit is due to be operational. We’re now inviting individuals with the necessary skills and relevant experience for either the leadership role or Board positions to register their interest,” added Coe.

The Integrity Unit with a budget of US$8 Million will be launched on 3rd April 2017 with an independent governance board, independent review panels and an independent staff to manage the anti-doping and other integrity-related programmes in elite Athletics. The unit will assume responsibility for education and testing and for the investigation and prosecution of breaches of the Integrity Code of Conduct by International-Level Athletes and their Athlete Support Personnel.

Obiri Defeats Kipyegon and Cherono in Machakos Cross-Country round-up

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Olympic 5000m silver medallist Hellen Obiri claimed her second victory of the Athletics Kenya Cross Country Series in the senior women’s 10km in Machakos on Saturday (17).

The line-up assembled for the penultimate race of the 2016-17 series was the strongest of the season but Obiri broke clear of Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon on the penultimate lap and built up a winning margin of approximately 100 metres on the last circuit.

“I am not in my best shape yet and I hope to hit the right form ahead of the World Cross Country Championships,” Obiri told reporters after the event.

Obiri stopped the clock at 33:29 with Kipyegon finishing second in 33:47 in her first race since the track season. This was also her first competitive outing at a distance longer than 8km and like Obiri, Kipyegon is aiming to make the Kenyan team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017 next March.

Kipyegon, who has twice won the world junior cross country title, would have started as the arguable pre-race favourite in 2015 but she was forced to miss the biannual event staged in Guiyang due to an injury which she picked up after winning the always competitive Kenyan Trials.

Kipyegon’s older sister, Beatrice Mutai, rounded out the podium in 33:56 while former IAAF world half marathon champion Gladys Cherono made a solid return from a back injury to finish fourth in 34:24 ahead of former world junior cross country champion Pauline Korikwiang in fifth (34:31).

In the men’s senior 10km, Rio Olympian Charles Muneria took the plaudits in 29:33 ahead of Peter Emase (29:46) and Bernard Muia (29:53) while Shadrack Langat and Edna Jebitok won the men’s 8km and women’s 6km junior races.

Kangogo collects third title, Kibiwot impresses in 10 KM Debut

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Cornelius Kangogo clocked 28:19 to win the 45th Corrida Pedestre Internationale de Houilles 10km, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (18).

With his win, the 23-year-old Kenyan became the third most prolific winner in race history with three victories, equalling the tallies of Fernando Mamede and Micah Kogo, but behind Jacky Boxberger who won the event four times and well behind Khalid Skah, who triumphed on eight occasions.

Even though Kangogo lowered his 5000m lifetime best to 13:10:80 in May, it was difficult to gauge his form as he hadn’t raced since early September.

Yet from the outset he illustrated his ambitions as the man to beat. He took the lead about two minutes into the race along with 20-year-old Franco-Swiss Julien Wanders, the French U20 record over the distance.

The large leading pack hit the first kilometre in 2:51, suggesting a possible finish time of about 28:30. After passing the three kilometre checkpoint in 8:35 Kangogo made his first move, breaking up the field behind him.

Nine runners were then at the front including Kangogo, Wanders, Ethiopians Jemal Yimer Mekonnen and Dawit Fikadu, Bahraini Al Mahjoud Dazza, Burundi’s Thierry Ndikumwenayo, Ugandan Abdallah Kibet and the British pair Dewi Griffiths and Ben Connor.

Kangogo then slowed the rhythm leaving Wanders in command. The lead pack hit the midway point in 14:20 with Kangogo appearing strongest. He tested his opponents with another big move in the sixth kilometre, but the pace again slowed allowing the pack to regroup.

With three kilometres remaining, Griffiths and Connor drifted back, leaving seven in contention.

A kilometre later the lead runners waited to see who’d make the next move. Wanders ratcheted up the pace but didn’t manage to pull away, with Kangogo matching his move.

The race came down to a fierce sprint over the final 300 metres. As he did a year ago, Kangogo unleashed a strong kick to win in 28:19. In a blanket finish, just one second separated the first five across the line.

“I’m very happy to win for the third time,” said Kangogo, who was credited with the same time as Mekonnen, Dazza and Ndikumwenayo. “I tested the other athletes several times and then I awaited the sprint.”

Wanders wound up sixth, just three seconds adrift of Kangogo. “I’m very happy because I beat the senior Swiss record of 28:25,” said a delighted Wanders who shouted with joy when crossing the finish line. “I wasn’t that far from the victory but they were too strong. It will be for another time.”

KIBIWOT SMASHES WOMEN’S COURSE RECORD
In the women’s contest, Viola Kibiwot produced an impressive solo run in her first 10km on the roads.

The Kenyan, who was fourth at the 2015 World Championships over 5,000m, promptly established a huge lead over Briton Katrina Wooton, a gap that she extend to more than twenty seconds after seven kilometres.

Kibiwot didn’t fade in the waning stages, eventually crossing the line in 31:14 to smash the previous course record by 14 seconds. Her performance ranks her as the ninth fastest over the distance on the roads this year.

Cornelius Kangogo Targeting third victory at Houilles 10km

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Following successes in 2013 and 2015, Cornelius Kangogo of Kenya will be looking to win for a third time at the Corrida Pedestre Internationale de Houilles, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, whose 45th edition will take place in the north western suburbs of Paris on Sunday (18).

Last year Kangogo sprinted away from Ethiopia’s Haymanot Alewe to regain his crown over the 10km course clocking a 28:10 personal best. Even if Alewe won’t be in the running in Sunday’s race, Kangogo will nevertheless face tough opposition, starting with Dawit Fikadu.

The Ethiopian, 21, prevailed in 10km contests in Rio and Casablanca earlier this year, improving his PB by eight seconds in the latter in May with his 27:56 run.

Fikadu has already shined on French roads as he won the Paris Versailles 16 km last year. He appears to be the main protagonist to counter Kangogo’s bid but it’s hard to gauge his form. Kangogo hasn’t raced since early September but he did improve his lifetime best in the 5000m on the track to 13:10:80 earlier this year.

Ethiopia’s Yimer Mekonnen, who was runner-up at the Istanbul 15km in November, cannot be ruled out in the battle for the podium.

Other podium contenders include Kenya’s James Kangogo, who won the Cross de Hyères last month and Abdallah Mande of Uganda. Mande finished third in Houilles last year with a 28:20 career best, and showed good form in early October with his victory at the Giro Al Sas in Trento in 28:47.

Kenya thrash France and Japan but lose to Fiji in Cape Town

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The gods of rugby seemed to be on Kenya Sevens’ side yesterday in South Africa during the second leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens in Cape Town.
William Ambaka carried forward his impressive form from Dubai by scoring the first try in the first two minutes of the match.

Augustine Lugonzo’s failed conversion would haunt Kenyans a minute later when French captain Terry Bouhraoua touched down just below the post followed by a conversion to put his side in the lead.

However, the Europeans were caught napping by the sensational Billy ‘The Kid’ Odhiambo who picked the ball out wide and sprinted past the French defence to score just below the post. Lugonzo did not miss there after as the game stopped at 12-7 for half time break.

In the second half, Ambaka embarrassed new substitute Stephen Parez with his trade mark hand off that left the French helpless as the Kenyan sprinted to the try line.

Tension and anxiety swept across the Kenyan ranks when Lugonzo was sent to the sin bin for a two-minute interval but coach Innocent Simiyu brought in Dan Sikuta for Ambaka.
Sikuta’s impact was immediate as he set up Leonard Mugaisi for Kenya’s fourth try as Lugonzo returned to the pitch. Cyprian Kuto’s pace and skills came in handy as he ripped the French apart by sucking in all their defenders on his way to the try line. Bouhraoua’s final try was inconsequential; Kenya won 33-14.

In last year’s inaugural Cape Town Sevens, Kenya lost 26-28 to France in the Main Cup 3rd place play offs.
Then came the grudge match; with memories of Singapore Sevens Final still fresh in minds of both Kenyan and Fijian players, the question was who would have the last laugh this time.

Last season Kenya beat Fiji to lift Singapore Sevens title.

However, with Samisoni Viriviri, Emosi Mulevoro and Sevuloni Mocenacagi all starting for in Fiji the Kenyans literally battled to get their hands on the ball.

Simiyu’s charges were stunned by an on-song Fijian side scoring three tries without any response from Kenya for a 21-0 lead before debutant Martin Owila scored a consolation try to give Kenyans hope ahead of the break.

The second half was filled with entertaining and dramatic moments as Kenya produced a stirring show to match Fiji inch for inch.

Nelson Oyoo scored a quick try to reduce the deficit to 21-12 before picking a neat pass from Brian Tanga. Oyoo ducked past Fijians but Sevuloni Mocenacagi held onto his shorts as he struggled to touch down.

Television replays showed that Oyoo’s toe was on the line to deny him the all-important try.

Fiji scored another try to widen the gap but Kuto responded by taking advantage of a disorganised Fiji defence to score his second try of the day.

Lugonzo’s missed conversions let Kenya down as the match ended at four tries apiece for both teams.

The game ended 28-22 and in the final pool B match, Kenya beat Japan 24-5.

Kirwa and Chesir Continue kenyan Dominance at Singapore Marathon

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Felix Kiptoo Kirwa and fellow Kenyan Rebecca Kangogo Chesir took top honours at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (4).

In what was expected to be a battle among experienced marathon runners, Kirwa waited until the closing stages to make his move and pull off a surprise victory.

With the start time having moved to 4:30am to avoid the highest temperatures of the day, the race started at a conservative pace as a large lead pack went through 5km in 16:05, 10km in 32:30 and 15km in 48:28.

Fifteen men – including Kirwa, two-time Singapore champion Kenneth Mungara, 2012 Singapore winner Kennedy Lilan – were still in contention as half way was reached in 1:09:24, making it clear that the course record of 2:11:25 would survive another year.

During the course of the following 10 kilometres, with 30km being passed in 1:39:00, the lead group had been whittled down to 10. The field continued to gradually reduce as the pace started to pick up during the closing stages.

Lilan was among the three men to drift off the pack before the 35km mark, leaving Kirwa, Mungara, Paul Kangogo, David Kipkorir, Robert Kiplimo and Luka Chelimo out in front. With just a few kilometres remaining, only Kangogo, Kirwa and Kipkorir remained in the lead pack and it became apparent that the race would go down to the wire.

Kirwa, brother of Olympic marathon silver medallist Eunice Kirwa, proved to have the strongest finish as he sprinted away from Kangogo to cross the line in 2:17:17, three seconds ahead of his compatriot. Kipkorir finished third in 2:17:32 while Mungara was fourth, a further minute behind the leading trio.

Black Queens stage stunning fight-back to down Harambee Starlets

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The national women's football team fell 3-1 to the Black Queens of Ghana in their opening match of the Africa Women's Cup of Nations at the Stade de Limbe in Cameroon on Sunday.

Esse Akida gave Kenya the lead with a stunning volley in the 23rd minute before second half goals from Suleman Samira, Elizabeth Addo, Boakye Portia ensured the Black Queens grab the three points to run out victors in the match.

Starlets, making their first ever appearance at the Women's Cup of Nations, found themselves on the back-foot early on as Ghana launched a tirade of attacks in the early spell of the match before Akida struck to give the Kenyans a shock lead. Akida's goal was Kenya's first ever goal at the Cup of Nations.

Starlets coach David Ouma started with the same line up that did duty and won 1-0 against Egypt in a friendly match on October 28, starting with Mary KInuthia, Akida and Christine Nafula upfront, while relying on the defensive quartet of Ann Aluoch, Dorcas Shikobe, Elizabeth Ambogo and Wendy Achieng at the back.

Akida and Ambogo were outstanding throughout the match, but it is Ghana's Addo who tormented the Starlets for 90 minutes.

Akida's goal acted as a stern wake up call for the Black Queens who have vast experience on the continental front but the Starlets held on to head to the break leading 1-0.

Harambee Stars extended their unbeaten run to eight matches

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Greek based midfielder Paul Were scored the only goal of the match at the 51st minute to bring to a total of eight matches in which stars have gone undefeated.

Harambee Stars dominated the match throughout the entire session and could have gone ahead on the eleventh minute when they lost a series of opportunities.

On the 18th minute Michael Olunga failed to change the scoring, after failing to make use of a perfect cross by Ayub Timbe.

Six minutes after the second half kick-off, Erick Johanna’s through ball to Paul Were changed the scoring to one nil.

It was also a good result for Stanley Okumbi who has not registered a loss for the stars since taking reigns as the teams head coach in February of this year.

The Kenyan side had recorded a similar results against Mozambique in an international friendly on Saturday barely 5 days ago when Eric Johanna scored the lone goal.

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