Record-holder Peres Jepchirchir hoping for inclusion in Olympic team
Peres Jepchirchir after winning the World Half Marathon in Poland on October 17, 2020. [World Athletics]

World women’s half marathon record holder Peres Jepchirchir harbours an Olympic dream after her successful, but Covid-19 pandemic upended year which saw her claim three successive marathon podiums.

The 27-year-old broke her own world record in the women’s half marathon by crossing the line in 1:05:16 at the 2020 World Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland, before ending the year with victory at the Valencia Marathon timing 2:17:16, a time that saw her move up to positive five on the all-time world women list. 

“I had a very successful year in 2020 despite all the challenges brought about by Covid-19 pandemic, I’m glad I was able to compete. My new year wish is to see if Athletics Kenya (AK) can consider my performance and make an amendment on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon team by including me in the squad,” Jepchirchir told Xinhua on Wednesday.

“I will love to compete at the Olympics; it will really make me a complete runner,” she added.

Earlier last year, AK named world marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei, world marathon champion Ruth Chepngetich, Vivian Cheruiyot, a winner of the Olympic 5,000m title in 2016 to the Olympic team. 

The 2019 Frankfurt Marathon champion Valary Aiyabei and 2014 world half marathon bronze medallist Sally Chepyego were named as reserves. 

The 37-year-old, Cheruiyot aims to compete at her fifth Olympic Games, a record tally for a Kenyan athlete.

However, Paul Mutwii, AK senior vice president and director of competitions told Xinhua that the federation will make some adjustments to the marathon team in order to send a strong squad to the Games which is scheduled for July 23 to August 8. 

Record-holder Peres Jepchirchir hoping for inclusion in Olympic team
Athletics – World Athletics Half Marathon Championships – Gdynia, Poland – October 17, 2020 Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir (R) in action [Reuters, Rafal Oleksiewicz]

“Definitely, there will be some changes to the marathon squad depending on the athletes’ current form.

“In fact, in the coming weeks, I will be chairing the technique committee that will determine who will be drafted into the team then make the announcement,” Mutwii said.

The world men’s marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge, Lawrence Cherono, a two-time Amsterdam Marathon champion who also won in Boston and Chicago in 2019, and world bronze medalist Amos Kipruto, who has a best of 2:05:43 were named in the men’s team. 

Two-time Honolulu Marathon winner Titus Ekiru and 2016 world half marathon silver medalist Bedan Karoki were drafted reserves. 

Elsewhere, Tokyo Kokusai University 2nd-year Vincent Yegon was awarded the Kanaguri Cup as the MVP of the 2021 Hakone Ekiden for setting a new course record of 1:05:49 for the 23.1 km Second Stage.

Yegon took 8 seconds off the record that 10,000 m national record holder Akira Aizawaa of Tokyo University had set last year, the first new record on Hakone’s most competitive stage in 11 years.

“It’s a great honor to receive this award,” said Yegon. “I’m happy. This season this was the best performance I was capable of.”

Record-holder Peres Jepchirchir hoping for inclusion in Olympic team
Athletics – World Athletics Half Marathon Championships – Gdynia, Poland – October 17, 2020 Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir celebrates on the podium with her medal and cheque after winning gold and breaking the women-only world record [Reuters, Rafal Oleksiewicz]

Yegon is the first runner from Tokyo Kokusai University and the first non-Japanese athlete to win the Kanaguri Cup.

He now holds the records on both the Second and Third Stages, having taken more than two minutes off the Third Stage record at the 2020 race.

Motivated for more, he said, “I want to keep trying to break stage course records. Next time my main goal will be to have a good race on the Fourth Stage.”

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