World XC Women — Obiri’s Triple Makes History

Hellen Obiri now owns World Champs golds indoors, outdoors and over hill & dale. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

AARHUS, DENMARK, March 30—Following wins at the World Indoor (3000 in ’12) and Outdoor (5000 in ’17) Championships, Hellen Obiri arrived in Aarhus for the World XC planning to become the first woman to win gold medals indoors, outdoors and in cross country. The 29-year-old Kenyan had demonstrated she was in shape with her 29:59 on a non-legal road 10K in Madrid on New Year’s Eve.

Ethiopia’s 2-time Junior champion Letesenbet Gidey and marathoning teammate Dera Dida were expected to be Obiri’s biggest rivals, having finished 1-2 at their nationals a few weeks earlier. As with the men, the race was 10,240m, featuring 1 lap of 2100m, 3 laps of 2000m and 1 lap of 2140m.

Kenyan and Ethiopian colors dominated the front of the pack during the early going, with Obiri, Dida and Gidey all among the 7 credited with a 7:12 opening circuit over the 5-lap course. During the second circuit, Obiri, Dida, and Gidey were joined in a breakaway group of 5 that included Uganda’s Peruth Chemutai and Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech. The quintet passed 4K in 14:16.

Obiri asserted herself at the front of the field, leading the pack through 3 laps in 21:32 with only Dida, Gidey, and Chemutai shadowing her. Dida and Gidey held on to Obiri through the fourth go-round, with the Kenyan splitting 28:53. Obiri and Dida dropped Gidey early in the final loop, with Obiri edging ahead over the final kilometer to win in 36:14. Dida finished close behind in 36:16, while Gidey held on for bronze in 36:24.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be a test of speed, as it was a tough hill,” said Obiri. “It was all about mind games.” The Kenyan star understood the implications of her historic triple: “It is really special. It was my debut IAAF World Cross Country Championships and my only chance to do it. I now don’t need to do any more cross country.”

Thanks to Dida and Gidey’s 2-3 finish, Ethiopia edged Kenya for the team title 21 to 25. US track 10K champion Stephanie Bruce (39:09) finished 33rd to lead Team USA to 8th. “It was a really tough day. I just kept hearing what place I am, and I was like, ‘I’m passing people but I’m still so far back.’” Bruce said. “I went in knowing it was going to be this difficult, but I guess I expected when I attacked more people would come back but a lot of people really held their positions so kudos to them. I think being a marathoner really helped because my mentality was who can manage fatigue better and it felt like the last 10K of a marathon.”


Aarhus, Denmark, March 30 (10,240m—1 lap of 2100m, 3 laps of 2000m, 1 lap of 2140m)

Teams: 1. Ethiopia 21; 2. Kenya 25; 3. Uganda 36; 4. Great Britain 132; 5. Australia 134; 6. Bahrain 152; 7. Canada 186; 8. United States 190; 9. France 198; 10. Spain 210.

Individuals: 1. Hellen Obiri (Ken) 36:14; 2. Dera Dida (Eth) 36:16; 3. Letesenbet Gidey (Eth) 36:24; 4. Rachael Chebet (Uga) 36:47; 5. Peruth Chemutai (Uga) 36:49; 6. Tsehay Gemechu (Eth) 36:56; 7. Beatrice Chepkoech (Ken) 37:12; 8. Eva Cherono (Ken) 37:13; 9. Deborah Samum (Ken) 37:18; 10. Zenebu Fikadu Jebesa (Eth) 37:24; 11. Fotyen Tesfay (Eth) 37:29; 12. Lilian Rengeruk (Ken) 37:35; 13. Juliet Chekwel (Uga) 37:35; 14. Esther Chebet (Uga) 37:36; 15. Anna Emilie Møller (Den) 37:51; 16. Failuna Abdi Matanga (Tan) 37:56; 17. Hawi Feysa (Eth) 37:59; 18. Fionnuala McCormack (Ire) 37:59; 19. Shitaye Eshete (Bhr) 38:08; 20. Geneviève Lalonde (Can) 38:10; 21. Stella Chesang (Uga) 38:14; 22. Liv Westphal (Fra) 38:18; 23. Elena Burkard (Ger) 38:26; 24. Darya Mykhaylova (Ukr) 38:41; 25. Irene Sánchez (Spa) 38:44;

… 33. Stephanie Bruce (US) 39:09; 34. Jenny Nesbitt (GB) 39:12; 35. Emily Brichacek (Aus) 39:18; 36. Jess Piasecki (GB) 39:20; 37. Cavaline Nahimana (Bur) 39:21; 38. Dolshi Tesfu (Eri) 39:24; 39. Nozomi Tanaka (Jpn) 39:27; 40. Gladys Tejeda (Per) 39:27; 41. Rose Chelimo (Bhr) 39:27; 42. Kesa Molotsane (SA) 39:31; 43. Natasha Wodak (Can) 39:42; 44. Marnie Ponton (Aus) 39:43; 45. Leanne Pompeani (Aus) 39:46; 46. Rika Kaseda (Jpn) 39:48; 47. Yukina Ueda (Jpn) 39:48; 48. Emily Hosker Thornhill (GB) 39:50; 49. Magdalena Shauri (Tan) 39:52; 50. Sarah Pagano (US) 39:54; 51. Anne-Marie Blaney (US) 39:55;… 56. Karissa Schweizer (US) 40:04;… 58. Marielle Hall (US) 40:12;… 75. Courtney Frerichs (US) 40:59;… 92. Hayley Green (US) 42:59;… 112. Liz Weiler (US) 49:29.

(118 started, 115 finished)