Kenya’s Obiri relishes challenge in her title defense at Doha worlds

Olympic 5,000m silver medalist Hellen Obiri is relishing the challenge in her title defense during the World Championships, which will be held in Doha, Qatar in October.

Obiri, 29, is angling to return to Doha, having excelled last week in the Diamond League winning the 3,000m race against strong challenge from Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba.

“The Diamond League season is underway and it was nice to take victory in the stadium which will host the World Championships later this year. I am looking forward to coming back. I am really happy to win my opening 3,000m race of the 2019 season in a time of 8 minutes 25.6 seconds,” said Obiri on Saturday in Nairobi.

The Kenyan, who took a dramatic victory at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019 just over a month ago, ultimately won a fierce last lap battle with 1,500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba en route to an 8:25.60 triumph.

“The final lap was very tough but I always posted a good result in the final 100 meters,” said Obiri, who displayed brute strength over the final 200 meters that belies her tiny frame.

With just over a lap remaining, Obiri blasted past compatriot Gloriah Kite to take command of the race, with Dibaba shadowing in stiff pursuit.

But every time the Ethiopian managed to nudge a bit closer, and Obiri managed to fight back as she eventually lead the first six finishers across the line in under 8:30.

The only other time that happened was in Doha five years ago in a race that was also won by Obiri.

Among those in that 2014 race was Dibaba who clocked 8:26.21, a lifetime best that lasted until tonight when she crossed the line, drained, in 8:26.20.

Lilian Kasait Rengeruk, who ran fifth and sixth for much of the race, finished strong to take third in 8:29.02.

Athletics Kenya President Jack Tuwei said that only the best will secure ticket to the world champions. However, Obiri is keen to overlook the national trials for the World Championships by winning the Diamond Trophy and secure automatic qualification to Doha 2019 World Championships.

“I just launched my Diamond Trophy defense in Doha, hopefully it will be smooth sailing for me as I look forward to other races,” she said.

After Doha, Shanghai will be the next stop for the 14-leg Diamond League on May 18.