By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's Jocelyn Jepkosgei is aiming for a podium finish in Valencia Half marathon on Sunday and boost her chance of making the Kenya team to World Half marathon also in Valencia in March 2018.
Jepkosgei made a major breakthrough in May by breaking no less than four world records at the Prague Half Marathon, which she won in 1:04:52. On her way to victory, Jepkosgei also set world records for 10km, 15km and 20km.
At only 23, the Kenyan may be the heir apparent to take over from London and New York marathon champion Mary Keitany ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
"I like the challenge especially when it is a fast race. I believe in my training and will do everything possible to see that I do well in Valencia," she said Friday in Nairobi.
On Sept. 9, also in the Czech capital, she smashed through the 10km's 30-minute barrier with an impressive 29:43 performance to clip 21 seconds from her previous world record.
Ethiopia's Worknesh Degefa Debele is the second quickest woman in Sunday's line-up, credited at 1:06:14 last year before making her marathon debut early in January when she clocked 2:22.36.
The Ethiopian, who finished runner-up in Valencia two years ago, will be joined by compatriots Netsanet Gudeta and Gelete Burka.
Watch out too for the 2015 world 5000m silver medallist Senbere Teferi, the 22-year-old Ethiopian who'll be making her debut over the distance.
From Kenya, Jepkosgei will be running alongside compatriots Fancy Chemutai, who signed a career best of 1:06:58 on her debut in Prague, Lucy Cheruiyot (1:07:23) and Paskalia Chepkorir (1:07:58).
In the men's race, former Kenyan now Bahraini Abraham Cheroben will lead a strong line-up of top athletes.
The 24-year-old is the fastest man this season thanks to his recent run of 58:40 set barely five weeks ago in Copenhagen.
Cheroben has already succeeded twice in Valencia with fantastic times of 58:48 and 59:10 in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Looking for a hat trick of victories last year, he had to settle for ninth place so he should be eager to bounce back from that performance and reign again.
Cheroben's toughest opponent might well be his former compatriot Vincent Kipsang Rono. The 26-year-old Kenyan improved his lifetime best by two minutes this year with his 59:27 victory in Lille in early September.
There is also Justus Kangogo of Kenya and Matthew Kisorio. Other Kenyans in contention include Simon Cheprot, Kenneth Keter and Geoffrey Yegon.