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Kenyan Hellen Obiri makes last stop in London
before Africa athletics championships       

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan world 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri will run her final build-up race in London on Sunday before heading to Asaba, Nigeria for the Africa Athletics Championships.

The 28-year-old has gotten over the lack of iron in her body, which slowed her down at the beginning of the season. Now she has found her sprinting groove to string together a series of wins and take the game to her challenger Genzebe Dibaba.

With poor outings in Rome and Eugene (USA), Obiri was forced back to the drawing board as she recuperated after starting this season earlier than expected at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham in March and the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April.

“It feels good to have my strength back. I was happy to run a fast time in the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene after a few weeks under strength due to low iron levels. But I was certain to rediscover my form and today I am almost at the best level,” Obiri told Xinhua on Thursday in Nairobi.

Last week, Obiri delivered on her pre-race promise to “try to run fast” when she sped to a 5,000m world leading time of 14:21:75 at the Diamond League meeting in Rabat, Morocco obliterating her Ethiopian rival Dibaba, who finished sixth.

“I have watched the highlights from my 5,000m race in Rabat and I am really happy to win and set a world leading time. Now next stop will be in London and then the Africa championships,” said Obiri. Indeed in London, Obiri will drop down the distance to one mile where she will team up with compatriot Winnie Chebet and Nelly Jepkosgei.

“I want to work on my speed and the mile distance will provide me the ground to test just that. I want to win at the Africa championships so that I may compete at the World Cup in Ostrava,” said Obiri.

The Confederation of Africa Athletics (CAA) will use the championships in Asaba, Nigeria (Aug 1-5) to select the Africa team that will go to the IAAF Continental Cup (World Cup), which will be held in September.

The top two athletes across the line in each discipline will make the Africa team. Also keen to excel at the Africa championships will be Olympic javelin silver medalist Julius Yego who has struggled to redeem his form after shaking off an ankle and groin injury, which saw him forfeit the world championship title last year in London.



Kenya’s Korir targets London Diamond League

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir is hopeful of success at the Africa Championships in Asaba, Nigeria, after visa complications denied him the chance to compete at Birmingham’s World Indoor Championships in March.

The Texas-based Kenyan teenager has since resolved his visa situation, and will be in London on Saturday to compete in the Diamond League against some of the top names in the 800m race.

Speaking to Xinhua, Korir said he is running in London in preparation for the Africa Championships.

“I have no doubt I’m in good shape and ready to show it in London. Despite running with great athletes like Nijel Amos (Botswana) and Wycliffe Kinyamal (Kenya), I am sure I will emerge top. I have confidence in myself and will certainly show it in the race,” said Korir on Friday.

The Kenyan warned that the London race will be tactical and that he will time his strides to perfection, in a bid to prove to the host nation that they were wrong to deny him entry to the country in March for the World Indoor Championships.

“The London Diamond League meet is important to me because it will also help me gauge where I rank and what strength have ahead of the Africa Championships,” he added.

This year in Texas, Korir clocked 1:44.21 to set a new Kenyan record in the indoor 800m race, beating the 14-year old mark of 1:44.71 set by Joseph Mutua.

Last year, during the London World Championships, Korir fell in the semifinals despite being a favorite, after running a world leading time of 1:43.10 with victory in Monaco in July.

The 22-year-old has since lowered the African record of 1:44.52 set by Ethiopian Mohammed Aman at the Birmingham Grand Prix in February 2014.

Former World Junior champion Jonathan Kitilit and Ferguson Rotich will team up with Korir at the Africa Championships from August 1st to 5th, with the top two in the race expected to secure automatic qualification to compete at the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic in September.

However, Kinyamal, who won the 800m gold for Kenya at this year’s Commonwealth Games, says he is also focused on clinching the continental ticket and will take the fight to Korir when they meet in Asaba.

“I have no doubt about my fitness and will be waiting for Korir in London. This is the type of opposition that will always inspire you to run a world leading time and I am happy to challenge him,” said Kinyamal.


Kenyan steeplechaser Chespol skips Monaco Diamond League

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- World Junior steeplechase champion Celliphine Chespol will skip the Monaco Diamond League meeting to avoid burning out ahead of the Africa Championships.

According to Kenya’s head coach Stephen Mwaniki, Chespol, who won gold at the World U-20 Championships in Finland last week, will not be allowed to travel to Monaco.

“She has no permission to compete in Monaco from the federation and we expect her in camp after returning from Finland,” Mwaniki said on Wednesday in Nairobi.

Organizers of the Monaco Diamond League had slotted Chespol to compete in the water and hurdle race together with World Champion Emma Coburn of the USA, current world leader Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya and Oslo’s Diamond League winner Hyvin Kiyeng.

“She is still young and we must treat her carefully. If exposed too early she may burn out and fail to deliver the performance required at the Africa Championships,” said Mwaniki.

The Senior Africa Athletics Championships will be held in Asaba, Nigeria from Aug 1-5. The Kenya team of 60 athletes is due to jet out on July 28.

“Currently, I have 50 athletes in camp with the others having been allowed to fly to Monaco for the Diamond League. Some will also go to London (July 20) for the next round of the Diamond League and after that we expect them to focus on training for the continental championships,” added Mwaniki.

Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) technical director Vivian Gungaram has already given thumbs up sign for the competition after touring the venue.

Gungaram said in a statement he was satisfied with the level of preparedness of the country to host the event.

“It is my second inspection visit and a lot of work has been finalized. I am sure the venue will be ready by this week,” Gungaram said.

Kenya finished in second position during the last championship in Durban with eight gold, eight silver and eight bronze behind the hosts South Africa who amassed 33 medals while Nigeria were third with 16 medals. But Mwaniki is confident Kenya will secure the overall title this time round.

Top two runners from each discipline at the Africa Championships will qualify for the IAAF Continental Cup scheduled for Ostrava, Czech Republic on Sept 8-9. 


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