Obiri to make half marathon debut in Istanbul

Two-time world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri is set to make her maiden appearance in half marathon at the Istanbul Half Marathon on Sunday.

Obiri was a late inclusion in a strong field that also has world marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei and the reigning world marathon champion Ruth Chepngetich.

Although Obiri will be making her bow over the 21km race at the Turkish city, she is not new to road races having clocked 30:53 to win a 10km road race in Barcelona in January.

The Olympic silver medallist has already cemented her status as one of the most accomplished and versatile athletes of her generation being the first woman ever to win senior world titles indoors, outdoors and at cross country.

With the Tokyo Olympics drawing closer, Obiri has declared her intention to go for double events at the Games as she aims to bag her maiden gold at the Summer Games.

Obiri debut over half marathon was delayed after the Ras Al Khaimah race that was set for February was cancelled owing to Covid-19 disruptions.

Another Kenyan in contention will be Joan Chelimo Melly whose lifetime best is 1:05:04 from Prague 2018.

Half marathon world record holder Peres Jepchirchir withdrew from the race due to stomach complications.

The Kenyans will however face stiff competition from eternal rivals Ethiopia with Yalemzerf Yehualaw- the second fastest athlete in half marathon- also in the start list.

Fireworks are also expected in the corresponding men’s race as half marathon record holder Kibiwott Kandie and his predecessor Geoffrey Kamworor.

The duo will clash for the first time over the 21km race since Kandie smashed Kamworor’s record at the Valencia Half Marathon last year December when he clocked 57:32 to erase 29 seconds off the previous mark of 58:01.

The first meeting between the pair this year was at the Kenya’s Cross Country Championships last month where Kandie placed second in a race that Kamworor failed to finish. It was Kamworor’s first competitive action since suffering an injury setback owing to a minor accident he sustained when he was hit by a motorcycle last year.

Also in the line up are; Amedework Walelegn of Ethiopia, the Istanbul Half Marathon record-holder who won in 59:50 in 2018, and Uganda’s Stephen Kissa both of whom have run sub 59:00

Kenya’s Leonard Barsoton, sixth at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia last year, will also be one of the fastest athletes on the start line.