Will there be an African youth movement at the 2018 Valencia IAAF World Half Marathon Championships?
There will be a Kenyan sweep.
You never know who is going to win a race like the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, when the Kenyan and Ethiopians have so much depth. There seems to be no end to the athletes willing to take the mantle of world champion from those two countries. A new champion for 2018 could be a teenager or someone nearly old enough to be their parent.
In the men’s race, the favourite is currently two-time champion 25-year-old Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor. He owns a best of 58:54 and has run 59:08 and 59:10 in his two previous world half-marathon championships.
He is also two-time IAAF World Cross Country Championships gold medallist.
The world record is currently held by Zersenay Tadese of Ethiopia, who ran as fast as 58:23 at the 2010 Lisbon Half Marathon.
Kenya has won the team title 15 times over the past 22 championships.
It is likely that Kamworor will be defeated by a fellow Kenyan and it is likely that Team Kenya will win gold.
Candidates to unseat Kamworor could come from anywhere; however, the runners with the best personal records include Ethiopian Jamal Yimer with his 59:00 performance. He is young at 22; we haven’t seen the best of him yet.
Kenya’s Jorum Okombo is even faster at 58:48 and younger as he won’t be 21 until December of this year. Fellow countryman, Alex Korio at age 27 has run as fast as 58:51.
Very young runners can have unexpected performance leaps.
Kenya should win, Ethiopia should finish second and third will be a dogfight between the US, Spain and Japan.
In the women’s race, 24-year-old Joyciline Jepkosgei is the favourite to win. She has run as fast as 64:51 last October in Valencia. That performance is the current world record. She also ran just one second slower in Prague last year.
There is little doubt that Kenya will double down on the golds as they have a formidable team entered (as always) in the women’s race with Fancy Chemutai having run as fast as Jepkosgei and the third-seeded athlete based on personal bests is Mar Ngubi, a Kenyan with a 66:29 best to her credit.
There are other Kenyans in the race too. Those not fast enough to race for Kenya switched nations and are running for Bahrain for a chance to escape poverty. They are young and could have jumps in performance too; however, it will take an entire team of personal bests to usurp the Kenyan train.
Bahrain may win team silver. The US stands a chance being led by Jordan Hasay with her best of 67:55.
Spain, the host country, will have to thoroughly outdo expectations to get into the team mix; however, they should fight for a top-five position.
With a near-perfect weather forecast, expect the top male and female athletes to challenge for world record times if someone chooses to go early.
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