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Manangoi, Obiri chase Diamond League prizes

World champions Elijah Manangoi and Hellen Obiri are among 32 athletes who have qualified for the 2017 Diamond League finals.

They will be in contention for cash awards and polished diamonds when the Diamond League series completes after the final rounds in Zurich Thursday night and in Brussels next Friday. Manangoi, the 1,500 metres world champion, fresh from upgrading from the silver medal he won at 2015 Beijing World Championships, headlines Kenya’s charge in the first of the finals at the 92-year-old iconic Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich on Thursday.

Obiri, the 5,000m world champion, will be the star-attraction in the second finals in Brussels next week where the Rio Olympic 5,000m silver medallist only needs to make an appearance since her lead of 25 points is unassailable.

This year’s Diamond League format witnessed a change where athletes had to qualify by earning points from four to six meetings. The top eight or 12 athletes from the first of 12 legs of the 14-leg series then qualified for their respective finals that were split into two — Zurich and Brussels. Series winners in each race will pocket $50,000 (Sh5 million).

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A total of 18 Kenyans will be in Zurich to feature in four finals — men’s 1,500m and 5,000m and women’s 3,000m steeplechase and 800m.

Also in action in the 5,000m is double Olympic champion Mo Farah of Great Britain who will be competing in his final track race before shifting to the marathon.

Kenya is tipped for men’s 1,500m and women’s 3,000m steeplechase victories but not the rest.

Manangoi, who leads in the metric mile series with 30 points bolstered by victories from Doha and Monaco, only needs four points in Zurich to claim his maiden series victory.

Manangoi’s closest rival is World 1,500m silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot, who has accumulated 25 points spiced up with victory in Stockholm. 

Cheruiyot’s only hope for the series win is if Manangoi doesn’t finish in top seven positions in the final that has 12 athletes.

Victory from the rest of the chasing pack that include Ethiopian Aman Wote (15), Silas Kiplagat (15), Ronald Kwemoi (14), Charles Simotwo (10) and Bethwell Birgen (7), won’t make any difference so long as Manangoi and Cheruiyot get to participate in the race.

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Notably, Kwemoi has better chances of winning the series in 5,000m in Zurich than in the metric mile race Series. Kwemoi, who is the best paced Kenya in the 5,000m series with 15 points with a win in Doha, must win with the hope that World 5,000m champion Edris Muktar and his compatriot Yomif Kejelcha don’t win.

Edris, who won in Paris and Lausanne and Kejelcha, tie at the top with 19 points, and in between is the World 10,000m silver medallist Joshua Cheptegei with 16 points. World 5,000m silver medallist Mo Farah, who is fresh from winning the 3,000m race in Birmingham, will spice up the race. The race in Birmingham didn’t count for the series.

Hyvin Kiyeng, who is fresh from relinquishing her World 3,000m steeplechase title, settling for bronze in London, shares the top spot with compatriots Beatrice Chepkoech and Norah Jeruto with 15 points each.

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Olympic champion Ruth Jebet from Bahrain and Kenya’s World Under-20 champion Cellphine Chespol, who have 11 points each, are also in contention in Zurich.

Olympic 800m bronze medallist Margaret Nyairera and 2013 World 800m champion Eunice Sum are out of contention in women’s 800m battle but should give Series contenders Olympic and World 800m champion Caster Semenya and Francine Niyonsaba from Burundi a challenge. Niyonsaba leads the series with 36 points. Semenya has 32.

In Brussels, the 2015 series winner Jairus Birech is the only Kenyan in contention in the 3,000m steeplechase series, placed second with 20 points behind World bronze medallist Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco with 23 points.

Another Kenyan with an outside chance is Amos Kirui with 15 points. Olympic and World champion Conseslus Kipruto and World silver medallist Evan Jager have eight points each, and even though out of contention for the Series but favourites to win in Brussels. 

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