Organisers confirm 15 gold level athletes for Okpekpe Road Race
• Arita, Juma, Gudeta lead elite cast
The organisers of the fifth edition of the 10-kilometre Okpekpe Road Race have confirmed that a record 15 gold level-running elite athletes will participate in the race for the men and women’s titles and the $15,000 top prize at the event billed for this Saturday in Okpekpe near Auchi in Edo State.
According to the race’s Media Officer, Dare Esan, six women and nine men, who are gold level elite runners made the final list of athletes confirmed by the race’s director of organization, Zack Amodu.
Top on the list are Kenya’s Stephen Omiso Arita, Tanzania’s Ismail Juma and Ethiopia’s Netsanet Gudeta. They are expected to start arriving in NIgeria from tomorrow.
Arita is the 10th fastest 10-kilometre runner so far this year courtesy of the 27:59 seconds he ran to win the XV 10km Villa de Laredo 2017 in Laredo, Spain> he will be coming to Okpekpe not only aiming to become the fourth Kenyan to win the men’s title, but also erase from history books the 28.35 seconds course record set by Teshome Mekonnen in 2014.
The Kenyan will however be up against such quality competitors as Tanzania’s Juma who ran 28:58 seconds to place eight at the IAAF Gold Label World’s Best 10k in San Juan, Puerto Rico last February; defending champion, Simon Cheprot of Kenya, who will be seeking to become the first man to successfully defend an Okpekpe title and Turkey’s Kaan Kigen Ozbilen, who holds a 27:25 seconds personal best over 10km and placed 17th in the marathon event at the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil last year.
Also tipped to be among the competitors for the Okpekpe title and top cash prize are Edwin Nyandusi Mokua of Kenya, who holds a 27:38 seconds lifetime best in the event, compatriots Emmanuel Kiprono Kipsang, who ran 27:47 seconds to place third in the 10km race in Praha last year and Wilson Kiprono Too, whose personal best of 27:39 was achieved way back in 2013, as well as Ethiopia’s Fikadu Haftu, who also ran a lifetime best of 27:46 seconds last year.
In the women’s category, Gudeta, who came third at the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, will battle compatriot, Alemtsehay Asefa for the title. Asefa ran 32:39 seconds last March at the Oujda international 10km in Morocco and looks to be the woman to beat.
Amodu is thrilled by the quality of the elite athletes coming for the race and predicts new course records for both the men and the women’s races.“Almost all the athletes we have registered for the men and the women’s race have personal best times far better than the 28 minutes and 35 seconds and 32 minutes and 41 seconds course records set in 2014 by Ethiopian duo of Teshome Mekonnen and Wude Ayalew respectively.
“We have an athlete, who has broken 28 minutes this year, which means we are likely going to see a first sub 28 minutes time for the first time at the Okpekpe race. We are also hoping to get a sub 32 minutes runner come Saturday in the women’s category,” said Amodu, who assured that everything is set for another successful edition of the race.