The city of Riga, Latvia set the stage for today’s World Athletics Road Racing Championships. With ideal weather conditions and a fast course, aggressive racing was expected. The first elite event of the day was the women’s and men’s 5k.
World Cross-Country Champion Chebet Takes World Road 5k in Riga
34 women took to the start of the elite 5k but it would be Beatrice Chebet to lead Kenya to a 1-2 victory with teammate Lilian Kassait Rengeruk. The Ethiopian duo would follow the Kenyan pair behind in 3rd and 4th place with Ejgayehu Taye claiming bronze and Medina Eisa just missing out on a podium spot.
Chebet put on an impressive display of athleticism, coming just six seconds shy of breaking the world record, recording a time of 14:35.
Chebet, the current World Cross-Country Champion and 5,000m bronze medalist was part of a select group of seven athletes that broke away early in the race after an aggressive start. Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Italy, and the United States were all represented in the selection.
The pace was ruthless throughout the race, with the opening kilometer being passed in 2:55, which included one of two inclines and a headwind, and passing the 2k point at 5:54. Over halfway through the race, passing the 3k mark in 8:53, the group of seven was still together.
It wasn’t until after the 4k mark, passed in 11:47, that the pivotal point of the race occurred. Ethiopian runner Ejgayehu Taye pushed the pace but was still stuck with Chebet, Rengeruk, and Eisa coming into the final turn before a long finishing straight.
Coming out of the final turn, Chebet made a decisive move that none of her competitors could respond to and crossed the line, claiming the world title.
“I had to be confident,” said Chebet. “It was not easy, but the last time I ran the 5000m in Oregon (at the Wanda Diamond League Final, where she finished second), I saw I could deliver and today I delivered. It was just an amazing race, something amazing.”
This marks the end of Chebet’s successful season, however, not much time stands between her and the 2024 Cross-Country World Championships, where she will try to defend the title.
“Winning the World Cross Country, then running 14:05 for 5000m on the track, the third fastest time in history, then today, winning the 5km, it makes me so happy.”
Ethiopia’s Gebrhiwet Takes First Senior Title at Riga Road Championship 5k
After 12:59 of racing on the roads of Riga, Latvia, 29-year-old Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia claimed the men’s 5k Road Racing Championship. Behind him was teammate Yomif Kejelcha, who crossed the line in 13:02 to secure an Ethiopian 1-2. Nicholas Kipkorir of Kenya would complete the podium, earning the bronze with a time of 13:16.
Expecting a fast race from the start, runners were hesitant to surge in the first kilometer, covered in 2:41, when negotiating the first incline of the race on Stone Bridge.
A bunched group coming out of 1k, it was South Africa’s Maxime Chaumeton, who would eventually finish 6th, who found himself at the front of the race early on. At the five-minute mark, with a slow pace to the race, Kejelcha came forward to push the pace.
As the pace increased, the group became more strung out and fewer runners were at the front. The duos of Kenya and Ethiopia stayed close together at the front, but a relentless pace from Kejelcha would see both Kenyans fall back.
Gebrhiwet was the only one able to match Kejelcha’s pace and stayed tucked behind his compatriot’s slipstream.
The duo stayed together through kilometer 4, covered in 2:32, until Gebrhiwet dropped a blistering surge. Kejelcha tried to follow his teammate, but with the finish line in sight, Gebrhiwet’s finishing kick was too much for him to match.
29-year-old Gebrhiwet finishes his season with his first senior title, 10 years after winning the World U20 Cross-Country title. A superb end to a superb season for the Ethiopian, who came sixth in the 5,000m in Budapest and took the win earlier in Monaco along with a personal best of 12:48.18.
After the race, Gebrhiwet spoke about how proud he is of his accomplishment:
“Coming to this race, I was thinking about Budapest. I was sick in Budapest and I could not perform well at the World Championships, so I am very proud of what I achieved right now. It is a historic moment for me and for my country to become the first road running world champion.”