Return of Diamond League offers Kenyan athletes hope

Kenyan athletes Helen Obiri (L) and Faith Kipyegon (R)

Champions Helen Obiri and Faith Kipyegon were among elite athletes from Kenya who were eyeing to open their Diamond League quest in Shanghai on Saturday before the event was pushed back to Sept. 19.

Kipyegon, the Olympic 1,500m champion, is hopeful she will be strong enough to return to the Chinese course where she posted her personal best in the four-lap race back in 2016 and restore her season ahead of her Olympic title defense in 2021.

“I was training with Shanghai in my mind. I wanted to launch my Diamond League in China. Instead, the global crisis means we are still waiting for the season to begin,” Kipyegon said.

Kipyegon has particularly good memories of Shanghai, having smashed her personal best time there on several occasions and set a new meeting record there in 2016 when she clocked 3:56.82.

Faith Kipyegon set the 1500m record at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai in 2016

“Well that is a fast time, but I have since improved it to 3:54.22 last year when I returned from maternity leave to win silver at the World Championships,” Kipyegon said. “But Shanghai will be a good course to return to in September.”

However, for Obiri, she is working around the clock to regain her fitness and beat her personal best time in the 12-lap race.

Obiri, 30, said she had high hopes of winning the Olympic title in 2020 before the Tokyo Games were postponed.

However, with World Athletics announcing a new rescheduled program for the remainder of the 2020 season, Obiri believes it will be hard for most athletes to hit their top mark prior to the first Diamond League race in Oslo, Norway from June 11.

But that has not stopped Obiri of dreaming to one day break the world record, which currently stands at 14:11.15, set by Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba back in 2008.

In fact, the top four fastest times are all held by Ethiopians including Almaz Ayana (14:12.59) and Meseret Defer 14:12.88.

Obiri’s time of 14:18.37 in Rome in 2017 is the fifth fastest. However, last year in London, Obiri kicked away from Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan to take the 5,000m in 14:20.36, a meet record and 2019 fastest time.

Hellen Obiri won the 5,000m run in a meeting record of 14:20.36 that was also the fastest run in 2019 at the London Diamond League.

She held off compatriot Agnes Tirop, who clocked 14:20.68, the second-fastest time in 2019.

“We will try to adjust and adapt to the new season. For now, I have to start the intensive training,” Obiri said.

Obviously I want to go out and improve on my personal best times and probably fight for titles so it is about switching my mindset.”

To start off the season, Obiri believes she will have to tone down and seek speed over the 3,000m distance.


Chidi Nwoke.