Chebet retains senior women’s title to lead Kenyan top five in Belgrade

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Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet successfully defended her senior women’s title at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Belgrade 24, becoming the first senior female athlete to win the title back-to-back since Tirunesh Dibaba in 2006.

The 24-year-old conquered an extremely strong field of her Kenyan compatriots when she broke away from Lilian Kasait Rengeruk just 400m from the finish line to win in 31:05. Rengeruk secured silver in 31:08, while Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi won bronze in 31:09.

The brilliant Chebet led the Kenyan athletes to a sweep of the top five positions – a feat that was last witnessed at the Kampala edition in 2017 when Kenya swept the top six positions in the senior women’s race.

Chebet credits the great performance to the perfect weather, which was similar to Kenya, and great teamwork.

We won the team title, that showed very strong teamwork,” said Chebet. “After trials we trained together, we eat the same food. We were a team and being together helped us achieve the best result here.

It is not easy to come to a world championship and defend your title, there is a lot of pressure. My target was to be on the podium. I felt I was stronger with about 500m to go. The course was so good, the weather was good like in Kenya, very sunny, and the obstacles were not as hard.”

Kiplimo takes back-to-back senior men’s gold in Belgrade

Meanwhile, Jacob Kiplimo retained his senior men’s title at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Belgrade 24, joining an illustrious list of athletes to have successfully defended a world cross-country title.

Jacob Kiplimo wins the senior men's race at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Belgrade 24 (© Getty Images
Jacob Kiplimo wins the senior men’s race at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Belgrade 24 (© Getty Images

The Ugandan now sits alongside the likes of Kenenisa Bekele, Geoffrey Kamworor and Paul Tergat as back-to-back winners of the senior men’s title. Ethiopia’s Berihu Aregawi, also repeated his finish from the last edition to take silver, while Kenya’s Benson Kiplangat earned a surprise bronze.

Chimdessa Debele was the first to make a significant move. The Ethiopian opened up a 20-metre lead during the first two laps with France’s Mehdi Frere a surprise challenger in second place, while most of the other big contenders – including defending champion Kiplimo and 2019 winner Joshua Cheptegei – ran in the large chase pack.

After about 11 minutes, the rest of the field managed to reel in Debele, the 2022 African 10,000m silver medallist. But the lead pack didn’t last long because Kenya’s Gideon Rono then put in a surge to open up a gap on the rest of the field.

The 2019 African U18 3000m bronze medallist put in a commendable effort, but, like Debele, his lead was relatively short-lived. After about 22 minutes, Rono was caught by the chase pack, which was now headed by Kiplimo and Cheptegei.

The team contest was also heating up; by the end of the third lap, Uganda and Kenya were level on points (23).

With 24 minutes on the clock, Kiplimo started to make a move. Aregawi – who followed Kiplimo home in Bathurst last year – also started to make his presence known, moving on to the shoulder of the Ugandan, while Kenya’s 2021 world U20 5000m champion Kiplangat moved into third.

Kiplimo continued to stretch ahead of his opponents on the final lap. With each stride, he was gaining in confidence that he would retain his title, and that duly proved to be the case as he kicked ahead to win in 28:09.

Aregawi also replicated his finish from Bathurst last year, taking silver again in 28:12. Kiplangat – who was just fourth at the Kenyan Cross Country Championships – held on for bronze in 28:14, but gained gold in the team standings as he was the first of five Kenyan finishers in the top eight.

Cheptegei finished some way out of the individual medals in sixth (28:24), but he earned silver in the team contest. Ethiopia took team bronze, finishing comfortably ahead of Spain.

It actually feels more exciting to successfully defend my title than to win the first one,” said Kiplimo. “But it was also tougher. I came here expecting I could win again, but the field was really strong. The pace was fast, the guys kept pushing it and there was still a big group out in front. It wasn’t until the final three kilometres that I felt I needed to move to the front.

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