Kenya athletics team shifts camp to Beijing

Nairobi, Aug 18 (IANS) International championships are always justified to be stages to bag national honours and the World Athletics Championships starting in Beijing on August 22 will be no different.

Kenya will be one of the countries entering a big contingent as it sent out a squad of 68 with 54 being track and field athletes for the nine-day biennial competition, Xinhua reported on Monday.

The team wound up its preparations on Monday and left for Beijing without the women’s marathon squad of two-time world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat, Visiline Jepkesho and Helah Kirop.

The trio will link up with the rest on August 24 and will have a week to acclimatise before their event set for the final day of competition on August 30.

Team manager Joseph Kinyua said he is optimistic the country will improve on its medal tally from the previous championships in Moscow where Kenya was fourth with 12 medals — five gold, four silver and three bronze.

Hosts Russia, the US and Jamaica were superior. Russia collected 17 medals (seven gold, four silver and six bronze), the US had 25 medals (six gold, 13 silver and six bronze) and Jamaica got nine medals (six gold, two silver and a bronze).

“We are taking the best and with the best set of coaches, Kenya has no other option but to do better than Moscow. We want to top the medal table, but I know hosts China will be a tough nut to crack and so will be Jamaica and the US,” Kinyua said.

The World Championships in Beijing will be the biggest in the 15 editions of the event, which started in 1983.

The previous highest number of participating federations was 203 in Moscow two years ago. In Beijing, 1936 athletes (1043 men and 893 women) have been entered.

Head coach Julius Kirwa was upbeat that the team would stage a good show in the Chinese capital.

“We have polished their skills and worked on their weakness and I now we have to let them take the challenge in their strides and conquer the world. This is a good team and I am certain that we will do well,” said Kirwa.

Six athletes — Asbel Kiprop (1,500 metres), Ezekiel Kemboi and Brimin Kipruto (3,000 metres steeplechase), Viola Kibiwott, Janeth Jepkosgei (800 metres) and Edwin Soi (5,000 metres) — returned to the iconic Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing, where they competed at the 2008 Olympics.

Vivian Cheruiyot, who won a double in Daegu, South Korea in 2011, will this time focus on the 10,000 metres after she skipped the 2013 event because of motherhood. Her biggest rival will be Ethiopian Gelete Burka, the 2008 world indoor 1500 metres champion.

But Kenya will also have another star to unveil at the championship in an area not known to the country athletes, javelin.

Africa champion Julius Yego, who basks in 91.39 metres Africa javelin record, is out to win a medal having finished fourth in Moscow.

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