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Joyceline Jepkosgei fully focused on win-
ning start at Honolulu Marathon debut   

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- World Half Marathon record holder Joyceline Jepkosgei has warned she is back to her optimum form that saw her shutter the world mark in 2017.

With just under two weeks before the Kenyan star launches her marathon debut show in Honolulu in the U.S. on Dec. 9, Jepkosgei has sounded the alarm when she won the Kenya Defense Forces cross country title in Nairobi on Friday.

It was Jepkosgei’s fourth race this year. “I was using this race for speed work. It is time for my bid switch from half marathon to full marathon next month,” said Jepkosgei.

“I just want to finish and feel the pain of the marathon. I’m told the conditions in Honolulu will be warm, which is good.”

Jepkosgei says she hopes to get a surprise birthday present in Honolulu by winning the race. Her birthday is on Dec. 8.

Jepkosgei has however said she is not keen to make the Kenya team to the World Championships too soon.

She however, harbors the dream of representing the country and the 2020  Olympics in Japan look an ideal stage for her big race.

“First is to see how the body will respond on my first marathon. Then irrespective of the results, I will build on it with more experience and hopefully be ready for the Olympics in 2020,” she added.

Last month Jepkosgei won another half marathon in Eldoret. Jepkosgei finished third in a time of 68:10 at this year’s Great North Run in Newcastle, England.

Injury concerns, however, have limited the Kenyan’s participation in international competition, but she believes she is getting better.

In May, Jepkosgei finished second at the Manchester 10km run behind Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba. But her win two weeks to Honolulu Marathon debut has instilled an invincible feeling in the Kenyan.

“The weather conditions here were hot and humid, similar to what I expect in Honolulu. The course was good. I trained well for this race and I was confident of winning the title ahead of the race. It is always important to train hard and that way, you fear nobody, whoever they are, on the race day,” she added.

Jepkosgei’s coach and husband Nicholas Koech says he is certain the 24-year-old will weather the storm and write history, like many before her, to win the marathon on her debut.

“I want her to have an impact when she transits to the marathon,” he said.



Kirwa leads Kenyan quest at Italy’s Florence Marathon, eyes national team call

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s Gilbert Kipruto Kirwa returns to Italy hopeful to improve on his third place finish and clinch gold at Florence Marathon on Sunday.

The 25-year-old has not raced since he clinched the bronze medal in Florence last year after he sustained an ankle injury.

However, he returns feeling strong as he intends to recoup the missed opportunities hoping he will prove his mantle and secure a slot in the Kenya team to the World Championships next year in Qatar.

“I have recovered and ready for the assault of the Florence course,” Kirwa said on Thursday before departing to Italy.

“It is about preparations and I have done my part and though there are some top names lined up, I believe the training has been good to withstand any challenge.” Kirwa was the third-place finisher in the men’s race last year.

The Kenyan clocked his personal best of 2:06:14 in Frankfurt back in 2009 but ran 2:07:44 as recently as 2015 in finishing fifth at the Paris marathon. Later he was second at the Toronto Waterfall marathon in Canada clocking 2:09:01.

But that will come under focus when he lines up at the Florence marathon course on Sunday.

Kirwa will be up against China’s Xiamen marathon champion Dejene Debela and Bonsa Dida from Ethiopia.

After setting a personal best time of 2:07:10 in Eindhoven in 2017, Debela has won two marathons in China this year, clocking 2:11:22 in Xiamen and 2:12:08 in Beijing.

“I hope to run well in Florence and see if I can defend my title in Xiamen next year. I believe I will have recovered, but it will be dependent on the performance in Italy,” he said.

Dida also set his personal best time last year, running 2:10:16 when winning in Madrid, and he finished second in Hong Kong in January earlier this year in 2:13:44.

Ahmed Nasef, who won the Italian marathon title in 2016 and 2017, is also in the field, while Kenya’s Abraham Kiplagat and Bahrain’s 2016 Asian U20 cross-country champion Abdi Ali Gelelchu will be making their marathon debuts.

“I have no idea what to expect. I have been training hard but this is a new step up for me and I want to feel the marathon and see how the body will respond. Then I will know where I need to improve and what else is required,” said Kiplagat.

Israel’s European 10,000m champion Lonah Chemtai Salpeter will be in the spotlight when she runs in Florence against former compatriot Kenya’s Caroline Jepchirchir Chepkwony.

Chemtai Salpeter ditched her Kenyan passport in 2016 when she got married in Israel and will be up to challenge for the title.

However, Chepkwony, who set her marathon best of 2:27:37 in Lubljana in 2013 and Ethiopia’s Ayele Gebaynesh, who has a career best of 2:26:54 and Sarah Jebet (2:27:07) will be the athletes to beat.

Chemtai Salpeter is aiming at improving the course record of 2:28:15 set in 2002 by Helena Javornik.

She could even challenge the European-leading time of 2:25:25 set by European champion Volha Mazuronak.


Kenya-turned Israeli Chemtai leads elite charges at Florence Marathon

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- European 10,000m champion Lonah Chemtai Salpeter of Israel will compete in her first marathon on Sunday in Florence, Italy.

The 29-year-old Kenyan born-turned Israeli, has been pitching camp in the country in the final build up to her first marathon in 2018 and feels she has done enough to challenge the course record, which has stood for over a decade registered by Slovenia’s Helena Javornik at 2:28:15 in 2002.

“After a short recovery period after the European championships in August, I started my build up towards the marathon. I had three good weeks of altitude training in Font Romeu (France) and Iten (Kenya),” said Chemtai on Friday.

Born in West Pokot, Kenya, the same village as legend distance runner Tegla Loroupe, Chemtai first went to Israel in 2008, working as a nanny at Kenya’s embassy in Tel Aviv.

While jogging in Tel Aviv, she was noticed by athletics coach Moti Mizrahi, who suggested she train professionally. Later she met Israel coach Dan Salpeter, and the two were eventually married.

In 2016 she received Israeli citizenship and represented her adopted country at the Rio Olympic Games and later the London World Championships in 2017.

She however did not finish the marathon in Rio but held on to finish in position 41 at the London World Championships. Her personal best time stands at 2:40:16 from the 2016 Berlin Marathon.

Her fortunes however, changed in August when she won Israel’s first gold medal in athletics at the European Championships. Israel paid her some  1.12 million shillings (11,000 U.S. dollars) for her win.

“Since winning the European title I’m now recognized by many people. Recently at Tel Aviv Airport I bought a travel adapter and the shop owner recognized me. He was happy at my European victory, he gave me the adapter as a gift, for free,” she said.

“In the last two years, I have run with a much more positive attitude and this, I believe, has earned me great rewards.”

Despite her slow time in marathon, Chemtai has improved a great deal and will be the athlete to beat in the Florence Marathon on Sunday.

She ranked best from Europe at the World Half marathon in Valencia in March, finishing in position 12 clocking 68:58.

She recently improved that mark to 67:55 at the Lisbon Half Marathon last month. Chemtai slashed the course record, set by Kenyan Mary Keitany in Lisbon in 2011 by two second.

“I started my high altitude training in France, but traveled to Iten, Kenya to begin preparing for the marathon. My objective is to win the Florence Marathon,” she said.

The course record in Florence set by Slovenian Helena Javornik in 2002 of two hours, 28 minutes and 15 seconds might be an incitement for Chemtai to run faster.

Other Europeans in the race include Belorussian Volha Mazuronak (2:25:25), Italians Anna Incerti, Vincenza Sicari and Giovanna Volpato.


Half marathon held in Central China’s Wuhan

WUHAN China (Xinhua) -- A half marathon competition, which featured 4,900 runners from China and abroad, was held in China’s Optics Valley on Sunday.

The home athletes took all the podiums of ladies competition, as Li Chunhua clocked on one hour 25 minutes and 12 seconds to win the gold. Xiong Binbin finished second in 1:28:26, followed by Tang Siqin in 1:29:00.

Eyanae Paul of Kenya, who beat Yu Tong and Wang Kangmao, both from China, claimed the men’s title in 1:09:56. Yu and Wang ranked second and third respectively with 1:10:18 and 1:12:46.

Eyanae Paul said that it was the first time he has come to Wuhan and he could still feel the vitality of the city from the modern buildings and busy commercial districts. He said he hopes to come back to Wuhan for other races.

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