The 2012 World Indoor 3,000 metres champion Hellen Obiri and compatriot Bethwel Birgen have been given direct entry to next year’s World Indoor Championships set for Birmingham, England.
The two Kenyans were among 11 athletes to be given wild cards by IAAF following their victories in 2017 World Indoor Tour Series. Obiri and Birgen, who won the 3,000m and 1,500m series, also received a bonus of Sh2 million ($20,000) each.
The wildcards mean the championship will possibly have three Kenyan athletes each in men’s 1,500m and women’s 3,000m races, three South Africans in men’s long jump, three Jamaicans in women’s 60m and three American athletes in women’s 60m hurdles.
Previously, only two athletes from one given country have been allowed to compete in a given discipline at the IAAF World Indoor Championships. The is now a chance that, for the first time in history, one nation could sweep medals in an individual event.
The non-scoring disciplines in this year’s World Indoor Tour will become the 11 scoring disciplines for next year’s World Indoor Tour, creating a total of 22 wild card entries for the World Indoor Championships.
The final decision on individual entries for 2018 World Indoor Championships in Birmingham still remains with individual IAAF member federations, but it’s possible that several national teams will be boosted by the success of their athletes on the World Indoor Tour.
Obiri won this year’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in USA and Müller Indoor Grand Prix Birmingham, besides finishing second in Karlsruhe ,Germany.
“My target was to get automatic ticket for World Indoor Championships where I want to reclaim my 3,000m title then focus on outdoor events,” said Obiri.
Birgen stunned World 1,500m silver medallist Elijah Manangoi and 2011 World 1,500m silver medallist Silas Kiplagat to win the series. Besides winning the Copernicus Cup in Poland, Birgen finished second in International PSD Bank Dusseldor Meeting and third in Karlsruhe and Birmingham.
Obiri, who the 3,000m World Indoor title in 2012 before losing it to Genzebe Dibaba in 2014, settling for silver, said her dream is now to win the 5,000m World title in London in August.