Kenya’s chances threatened

Three leading medals prospects may defect from the Kenya team before the Paris world championships in August.

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Commonwealth 3,000 metres steeplechase champion Stephen Cherono and distance runner Albert Chepkurui are seeking Qatar citizenship, Athletics Kenya secretary general David Okeyo said on Friday.

In addition, Lornah Kiplagat, 29, whose marathon wins include Los Angeles in 1997 and 1998, Amsterdam in 1999 and Osaka last year, is married to Dutchman Pieter Langerhorst and could qualify for Dutch citizenship any time.

We applied for citizenship 15 weeks ago and she could get the passport any time. If she gets it, she will run for the Netherlands in Paris," said Langerhorst this week.

Cherono, 20, beat Moroccan multiple world record holder Hicham El Guerrouj over 5,000 metres in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on June 13 in the season’s fastest time of 12:48.81.

Kiplagat was named in the provisional Kenyan marathon team for the world championships this week but her husband said they had set their eyes on the 10,000 metres in Paris.

“While Kiplagat’s case is straightforward because of marriage and having not run for Kenya for four years, Cherono and Chepkurui must wait until 2005 to run for Qatar,” Okeyo told Reuters.

Cherono represented Kenya in August 2002 at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester where he won gold in the steeplechase. He won a bronze at the African championships in Tunis a week later in the same event. Chepkurui represented Kenya at the world cross country championships in Dublin last year.

Kiplagat ran for Kenya at the 1998 world half-marathon championships in Switzerland.