Okpekpe Race: Toroitich Challenges Ethiopians, Kenyans for Top Prize

Uganda’s Timothy Toroitich will be looking forward to end the dominance of Kenyans and Ethiopians at the fourth edition of the IAAF bronze label Okpekpe 10km International Road Race scheduled to hold in Edo State, Southern Nigeria on Thursday May 7.

Just like his compatriot Stephen Kiprotich did four years ago at the London Olympics where he scaled Kenyan and Ethiopian hurdles to make history as the first Ugandan man to win an Olympic marathon gold, Toroitich will also be aiming to make a little piece of history.

Toroitich, whose first attempt at the Okpekpe title was thwarted by Masai at the inaugural edition of the race and had to settle for the silver medal is one of the six gold level elite male runners confirmed for tomorrow’s race and will have to contend with the Kenyan duo of Simon Cheprot and Edwin Kiprop Kiptoo who placed sixth and ninth respectively and won a team gold at the IAAF/Cardiff University World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff, Wales last March and Morris Munene Gachaga who is the only man in the elite race cast to have broken 28 minutes this year.

Kenyans have won two of the last three titles on offer courtesy of  Moses Masai’s win (29 mins 39 seconds) in 2013 at the inaugural edition of the race and Korio Alex Olotptip win last year while Ethiopia’s Teshome Mekonnen won in 2014, setting a new 28 minutes, 35 seconds All-Nigeria and Course record.

Ethiopia will have the duo of Alemu Hungegnaw, a former winner at the Obudu Mountain Race and a gold level elite runner as well as Abayneh Degu Tsehay, a silver level runner to help protect the course record set by their countryman Mekonnen in 2014 and reclaim the title he lost last year to Alex Olotptip.

Morocco’s Zakaria Boudad and Tanzania’s Ismael Juma Gallet, both silver level elite runners will be waiting for any slip from the top-ranked Kenyans, Ethiopians and Toroitich to make an unlikely dash for the title.

In the women’s category, it will still be a duel between the Kenyans and Ethiopians who have dominated the last three editions.

The Kenya gold level running quartet of Pascalia Chepkorir Kipkoech, Maryanne Wangari Wanjiru, Esther Chemtai Ndiema, Polline Wanjiku Njeru will feel they hold all the aces to ensure Kenya retains the title compatriot Tanui Anfele won last year but the reality is that it will be a personal duel between Kipkoech and Ethiopia’s Buzunesh Getachew Gudeta who is also a gold level elite runner.

Both Kipkoech and Gudeta have met over the distance this year at the unlabelled 10km race in Casablanca last February and the Kenya triumphed.
Kipkoech also holds the fastest time (31 minutes,14 seconds) this year among the competitors coming to the race while Gudeta is second fastest.

However the silver level running trio Dorcas Nzembi Kithome of Kenya, Zerfie Limeneh and Sofiya Shemshu Chegen both of Ethiopia and the bronze level running Tanzanian, Mary Xwaymay Naali could spring a surprise by outpacing their more illustrious opponents to take the title.

Meanwhile all the elite athletes, both foreign and local will undertake a route tour today in readiness for the race.
The Okpekpe 10km International Road Race is organised by Pamodzi Sports Marketing, a leader in sports marketing, sponsorship, hospitality and rights acquisition business with operations in Nigeria.

Thisday/Aisha JM