By Darren Allan
At 28, any classy athlete must have their trophy cabinet nearly full. And even if this is so for Hellen Obiri, the Kenyan long-distance is still itching for more prizes.
She left the Stephen Keshi Stadium pretty satisfied with her performance after adding the continental 5000m title to her name on Day Two of the 21st Africa Senior Athletics Championships on Thursday in Asaba, Nigeria.
The feeling must have been mutual with the spectating crowd who part gave her a standing ovation after winning the 12-and-a-half-lap race in a time of 15 minutes and 47.18 seconds.
“I am happy to have won my first Africa title here,” Obiri said in an interview after landing Kenya’s first medal at the Championships.
But she is intent on garnering more silverware. “I know I have now added to my Commonwealth title from Australia (in April), World honour and the Olympic silver medal. However, I still have to work and win more medals,” she added.
One could say the women’s 5000m is hers, at least over the last 12 months. No one has been better than this Kenyan record holder.
Unlike the global Championships, the long-distance fields have been relatively small in Asaba.
Only 11 featured in the men’s 10000m final won by Ethiopian Jemal Yimer and on Thursday, Obiri needed to beat only eight competitors to claim the African crown and Kenya’s first medal.
They ran as a single pack for the first 2000m until Eritrean Dolchi Kibreab, home girl Olowora Amirat and Moroccan Ferkoussi Kaoutar fell off.
It was now down to three Kenyans and as many Ethiopians. Here, Obiri led in company of countrymates Lilian Kasait and Loice Chemning.
Ethiopian Teferi Senbere attempted to take over from the inside lane but the pack was alert, slowly closing in on her as they approached the last 2000m.
And with three laps to go, Obiri took over for good, stretching the field at will.
And by the time the bell rang, she was 60m clear of Senbere, her long hair hitting her back as she raced home to gold on the blue tartan.
Senbere, silver medallist at the 2015 Beijing World Championships, came home in 15:54.48. Behind her, Meskerem Hayile waded off the challenge from fellow Ethiopian Hawi Feysa for bronze in 15:57.38.
AFRICA SENIOR ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
WOMEN’S 5000M FINAL
1 Hellen Obiri (KEN) 15:47.18
2 Teferi Senbere (ETH) 15:54.48
3 Meskerem Hayile (ETH) 15:57.38
4 Hawi Feysa (ETH) 15:59.23
5 Lilian Kasait (KEN) 16:04.51
6 Loice Chemning (KEN) 16:25.78
7 Dolchi Kibreab (ERI) 16:46.94
8 Olowora Amirat (NGR) 17:29.64
DNF Ferkoussi Kaoutar (MAR)
CAST OF WOMEN’S 5000M AFRICA CHAMPIONS
2018 Asaba: Hellen Obiri (KEN)
2016 Durban: Sheila Chepkirui (KEN)
2014 Marrakech: Almaz Ayana (ETH)
2012 Porto-Novo: Gladys Cherono (KEN)
2010 Nairobi: Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN)
2008 Addis Ababa: Meselech Melkamu (ETH)
2006 Bambous: Meseret Defar (ETH)
2004 Brazzaville: Etalemahu Kidane (ETH)
2002 Rades: Berhane Adere (ETH)
2000 Algiers: Asmae Leghzaoui (MAR)
1998 Dakar: Berhane Adere (ETH)