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Kenya sends lean team of 20 to Youth Olympics, eyes better show   

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya is hopeful its lean team of 20 athletes will weather the storm and help the country improve on its medal haul at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Oct. 4-16.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) is looking at ways to limit number of participants in its competition to save on organization cost and this has impacted negatively to Kenya’s preparations, as they enter the smallest contingent for the games.

During the 2014 Youth Games in Nanjing, China, Kenya entered a team of 24 athletes in three disciplines - athletics, weightlifting and rugby Sevens. However, only 20 athletes will be representing the country in Argentina in athletics, hockey and swimming. Four years ago, Kenya claimed five medals - two gold, two silver and one bronze medals all from athletics.

Anthony Kariuki, Kenya’s Chef de Mission, said the selection of the three disciplines and 20 athletes was based on their performance at the Africa Youth Games held in Algiers, Algeria in July.

“IOC has restricted selection based on continental Games and that is why we have a small quota based on the number of athletes we sent to Algeria. Athletics wanted to have more runners in the team, but that will not be possible,” said Kariuki Tuesday in Nairobi.

With no rugby, volleyball and basketball making the cut, Kenya’s hopes will lie on athletics for medals just like was the case in Nanjing, China in 2014 where Gilbert Kwemoi Soet and Rosefline Chepngetich won Kenya gold.

This time, Kenya hopes will lie in five boys and five girls in athletics. But Kenya’s medal scoop may widen beyond the track to field event with Africa Youth Champion in javelin Martha Musai and boy’s Africa silver medalist Ita Nao eyeing gold at Youth Olympic Games.

Others in the athletics team are Africa Youth Games steeplechase champion Fancy Cherono, Dennis Mutuku Matheka, world youth champion in 1,500m Edinah Jebitok and Nickson Pariken. There is also Francis Leshoo and Angela Ndungwa in 800m with Jackson Kavesa and Mercy Chepkorir making the 3,000m team.

Germany-based Maria Brunlehner, who struck two gold medals and a silver at the Africa Youth Games is Kenya’s sole representative in swimming. Brunlehner will fly direct from her Germany base to Buenos Aires. The boy’s hockey team will comprise nine players and two officials.

“NOCK is the only sponsor of the team. The government shot down our budget appeal and now we have to see how best these young boys and girls can shine at the biggest stage in sports competition,” said Kariuki.

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