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Kenya coach targets Africa championship dominance

By John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s athletics team will not look down upon their rivals as they seek to dominate the Africa Championships, which starts in Asaba, Nigeria on Wednesday.

Kenya, which has named a strong 67-member squad, finalized their training in Nairobi on Saturday and head coach Stephen Mwaniki believes the team is in perfect shape to excel at the continental championships, which are held every two years.

“The preparations are complete and we are all set to depart on Monday for Nigeria. However, I have warned the athletes not to look down upon any team and be on the lookout not to allow complacency to creep in,” Mwaniki said on Saturday in Nairobi.

“Each country will be out to win and we have to have our best runners posting some fast time and claiming the gold medals,” he added.

Mwaniki singled out Uganda as one of the emerging nations, which will be eyeing to eat into Kenya’s long and middle distance dominance.

He warned that even though Uganda’s star Joshua Cheptegei will compete at the African championships, Kenyan runners must remain focused on the job.

“Uganda has a strong team beyond Cheptegei. They live and train with us and if not careful, they will overtake us in crucial races,” warned Mwaniki.

Cheptegei, a double gold medalist from the Commonwealth Games has been out of action after aggravating a knee injury by attempting the double in Australia last April.

In his absence, the country will rely on his top female runners Stella Chesang (Commonwealth champion) and Mercyline Chelangat in the 10,000m as well as steeplechaser Peruth Chemutai as the best chances for a medal while Jacob Kiplimo and Stephen Kissa will try to fill the void on the men’s side

Uganda has named a 20-member team for the championships starting on Aug 1-5 in Nigeria.

However, the team will also be without World Junior cross country champion Jacob Kiplimo, Janat Chemusto and Albert Chemutai, who have all pulled out with injury concerns.

“Three of our athletes picked up injuries during the IAAF World Under-20 Championships in Finland and have been withdrawn from the team,” said Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) chairman Dominic Otuchet.

Winners from the Africa Championships will secure automatic tickets to the IAAF Continental Cup, which will be held in Ostrava, Czech Republic from Sept 18-19. There will be teams from Africa, Asia, America and Europe.



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