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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Time for Kenya karate to shine with Gold at the All Africa Games

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya karate coach John Owiti said here Thursday that it is time for Kenya to shine at the Africa Games set to run from August 19-31 in Rabat, Morocco.

Karate has for long been underrated among the national sports in Kenya and the exponents have had limited exposure over the years.

However, 10 Kenyan players are on a course to change the narrative.

"Karate has limited entries to Africa Games because the Kenyan team has previously performed dismally," said Owiti. "We want to change that and prove our critics wrong."

For all their efforts, Kenya has only one bronze medal to show from the Maputo 2011 Africa Games.

Now, team captain David Kimani believes his charges have the capacity to ruffle feathers at the continental level before the Olympics and World championships.

"Our target is to secure the first gold medal for Kenya from karate.

"There is a lot of potential in this country, we have the facilities and coaches, what has been lacking is the exposure and competition like the Africa Games offer much more than the medals," said Kimani.

Kenya will field 10 karatekas - six men and four women - out of the provisional team of 48 that have been camping in Nairobi for training. A total of 290 athletes will represent Kenya in 22 different disciplines.

Kenya will have to battle for its spot against strong challenge from giants Algeria, Egypt, Congo, Senegal, Cameroon and South Africa who topped the medal standings in Congo Brazzaville four years ago.
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UPDATES:

Kenyans Karoki and Kiprop to skip World Championships for road race success

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) --  Kenya’s Stephen Kiprop and Bedan Karoki will skip the World Championships to focus on road races.

Kiprop illustrated fine form in 2018, winning three half-marathon races in the Netherlands and Czech Republic, and finishing fifth in Valencia clocking 59:21.

Winning the 2019 Ras Al Khaimah half marathon clocking 58 minutes and 42 seconds, fastest in the world this year, he is joint sixth on the world all-time list in February.

Now the 19-year-old will give the World Championships a bye to compete at the Valencia half marathon on October 27 in Spain.

The other elite runner Karoki, the silver medalist from Tokyo Marathon, told Xinhua from Nyahururu on Friday that he will instead compete at the half marathon in Argentina.

"I have committed myself to run a half marathon in Argentina and I have to honor it," Karoki said.

"I have had my chance with the Kenya team and the World Championships in Doha will not be on my schedule this time round," he said.

Kenya has failed to win a gold medal in the 10,000m race at the World Championships since Charles Kamathi won in Edmonton, Canada back in 2001.

Karoki, a silver medalist at the 2016 World Half Marathon and 2015 World Cross Country, said he is building up for Chicago marathon by running half marathons. He is also eyeing a slot in Kenya’s marathon team for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
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Top international Rugby Sevens sides invited to Safari Sevens

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Six top-ranked World Rugby Sevens Series core teams have been invited to take part in this year’s Safari Sevens, Kenya’s premier competition in October.

Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) vice-chairman Thomas Opiyo said that World Series silver medalists the U.S., African powerhouses South Africa, England, France, Canada, and Spain are all expected to grace the three-day competition in Nairobi from Oct. 18 to 20.

The teams will be using the tournament to gauge their preparedness ahead of the World Series tournament, which has stops in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and the United States.

"I am optimistic that this year’s event will be much better because we have some of the best teams coming to Nairobi for the tournament," said Opiyo on Friday in Nairobi.

Three former Series teams namely Japan, Russia, and Portugal have also been invited.

"We have made the invitation to the top teams and in two weeks’ time, we will know who has confirmed," Opiyo added.

Last year’s tournament was won by Samurai, who reclaimed the Safari Sevens title with a 21-14 victory over Kenya’s senior side Shujaa in a pulsating final.

Other teams that took part were the Emerging Boks from South Africa, University of Johannesburg, Spain, Uganda, Portugal, Namibia and Wales, Ireland, Apachi 7s, Blue Bulls and Golden Lions.

Kenya will field two teams - Shujaa and Morans - in the Safari Sevens tournament.

Ahead of the Africa rugby Olympic qualifiers, Kenya will use the Safari Sevens to select the players for the qualifiers for Tokyo 2020.

The U.S. and South Africa have secured qualification to the Olympics after finishing in second and fourth in the World Sevens Series. Champions Fiji and Australia are the other teams who clinched the tickets to Tokyo 2020 games.

Kenya will also compete at the Africa Sevens tournament in Johannesburg, South Africa from Nov 8-9.

Other teams competing will be Zimbabwe, Uganda, Namibia, Ghana, Botswana, and Nigeria.

The tournament will be used to select the African representative to the Tokyo Olympic Games.
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Kenya to face Morocco at Africa Rugby Cup

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya 15s rugby side has been granted a bye to the group stage of their 2020 Rugby Africa Cup, which attracts the best 16 teams in the continent.

The continental body has revived the Rugby Africa Cup after it had lost its financier in 2018. Kenya launched their cup campaign on May 30 at home against Morocco.

The two are in Group B alongside the winner of Cote d’Ivoire/ Rwanda match that will take place on November 23 in Abidjan.

"Rugby Africa has announced the new 2019-20 format that sees all the 16 teams competing for the overall Rugby Africa Cup title.

"The tournament will take place in three phases, the elimination round, group stage, and the finals," Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) said on Friday.

Eight teams will be involved in the preliminary stage with Cote d’Ivoire playing Rwanda, Ghana taking on Botswana, while Senegal will battle it out with Mauritius, with Madagascar hosting Nigeria.

Only the winners of these matches will proceed to the group stage.

They will join Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Zambia, Uganda, Algeria, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe.

Only South Africa, which is ranked as a tier-one nation, will be missing among the top African countries.

The group stage matches will kick off from May 30 to July 4.

The 12 teams have been divided into four Groups. The final round will be held from July 29 to August 1 in a single venue that is yet to be confirmed.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

Berlin silver medalist Kipruto seeks marathon gold at World championships

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Berlin marathon silver medalist Amos Kipruto has not won the 42km road race in two years, but is optimistic to clinch gold at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

Kipruto, 27, has made the Kenya’s team to the World Marathon Championships after his sensational run in Berlin chasing down Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge as he went on to set a new world record of 2:01:39 in the German capital.

Though Kipruto finished the race almost four minutes later clocking 2:06:23, it opened a door for him to represent the country at the World Championships and he has promises to help the country maintain a firm grip on the gold medal at the worlds.

"I must laud the head coach for trusting me with the duty to represent Kenya at the World Championships.

"It will be my first time to represent Kenya at the World Championships and I had been praying over it for some time.

"In Kenya we have many athletes and being selected means that I am living the dream itself.

"So it is up to me to win gold and wrap it up for the country," Kipruto said on Thursday in Eldoret.

Kipruto says Kenyan athletes have the talent, and need not waste it through short cuts by cheating.

"The short cuts are not good.

"This vice must be destroyed and athletes need to learn that it pays to win clean.

"Today, we are the most tested athletes worldwide and anyone winning does it through hard training," Kipruto said.

"If you run and train well, it will help you win clean.

"I know am capable of running a world record one time, but at the moment the focus is on the gold at the World championships."

Kipruto will link up with defending champion Geoffrey Kirui, two-time Paris marathon champion Paul Lonyangata, Laban Korir, and Ernest Ngeno.

At the same time former Commonwealth Games 5,000m champion Mercy Cherono is back from maternity leave and hopes to make Kenya team to the World Championships.

Cherono last won a silver medal in 5,000m during the 2013 Championships in Moscow, Russia.

"I am back in training and hope to make the World Championship team because I have nothing more to prove. Pressure is off me and all I need to do is run my race," she said.
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Kiyeng aims to snatch back steeplechase title on return to Africa Games

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) --  Beijing 2015 steeplechase world champion Hyvin Kiyeng is hopeful to reclaim her title as she returns to the Africa Games, which will be staged in Rabat, Morocco from August 19-31.

"I am optimistic of reclaiming my title.

"We have a strong team and our sole goal is to win all the three medals.

"The training is okay and we have the capacity to perform better than we did in 2015," Kiyeng told Xinhua here on Thursday.

Kiyeng last won gold in the water and hurdle race in 2011 in Maputo, Mozambique and skipped the 2015 edition in Brazzaville, Congo.

The Olympic silver medalist has failed to produce in recent years the top form that saw her cruise to victory in Beijing World Championships four years ago.

However, she believes she has turned the page on her fitness and injury worries and will launch her medal hunt this season in Rabat and reach her peak at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar in October.

"There are strong challengers in the Kenya team," Kiyeng said.

"But the focus is on me running my won race and beating any tactics my opponents will put in place.

"The Africa Games are critical to any athlete and will serve as a good build up for the World Championships."

In Rabat, Kiyeng will not only have Uganda and Ethiopia runners to worry about - the real challenge that will be posed by compatriot and world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, while the fast-rising Mercy Wanjiru is the third Kenyan runner.

Chepkoech failed to sparkle at both Rio Olympics and the London World Championships finishing fourth in both events.

She has signaled her intent to win a medal to her name and the Africa Games serves the best platform to start her medal haul to add on the world record.

Kenya’s athletics head coach Julius Kirwa is optimistic the squad of 61 will perform well given it comprises world beaters.

"I am not worried.

"By the look of things, this is the best team we have ever had.

"I have watched them and I am impressed.

"Our main mission in Morocco is to win," Kirwa said, adding that with the support of the government, the team would have better performance in athletics than they did in Brazzaville in 2015 when they claimed five golds.

One of the stars who will be keen to use the Africa Games to brush off the cobwebs will be world and Olympic steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto, who has been battling a foot injury since May.

Kipruto will team up with Benjamin Kigen and Joash Kiplimo in the water and hurdle race.

"The target is to get fit for the World championships title defense.

The Africa Games will help me gauge my fitness after the injury," Kipruto said.
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Kenya postpones selection of athletes for Doha worlds (updated)

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya has pushed back the selection of its final athletics team for the World Championships set for Doha, Qatar in October.

Athletics Kenya (AK) President Jack Tuwei said here Wednesday that the decision has been adopted to accommodate elite runners who will be pursuing the lucrative Diamond League jackpot in Zurich and Brussels.

The new dates for the national trials will be on September 12-13. Kenya intends to select 70 athletes for the global championships.

"The event has been slotted on this date due to several requests from athletes who will be participating in various Diamond Leagues," said Tuwei.

However, the country will select its 10,000m team this month to give them enough time to recover. It will also enable athletes targeting to double in 5,000m and 10,000m to do so without much pressure.

"Athletics Kenya has taken these requests into consideration and will therefore hold this event in September to give the athletes an opportunity to compete in these leagues and gain points for the finals.

The event will be by invitation only," added Tuwei.

World 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri has indicated her preference to double at the World Championships, hopeful to equal the record of compatriot Vivian Cheruiyot in 2011 in Daegu, South Korea, and Tirunesh Dibaba in Beijing worlds in 2015.

The selection trials were previously scheduled to be held on August 20-22 in Nairobi.

However, with several top Kenyans chasing the lucrative Diamond League, which comes with a Diamond Trophy and 50,000 U.S. dollars to boot, AK will allow the runners compete in Birmingham, Paris, Brussels and Zurich.

"We have taken into consideration the requests of athletes who will be participating in various Diamond League events in order to give them an opportunity to compete and gain points for the finals," the AK said in a statement.

Birmingham Diamond League which is penciled for August 18 would have been held just a day to the commencement of the trials while Paris meet scheduled for August 24 would have come two days after the conclusion of the trials.

The two Diamond League meets are crucial for athletes as they precede the two finals to slated for Zurich and Brussels on August 29 and September 6 respectively.

However, all athletes keen to represent Kenya at the World Championships must undergo three anti-doping tests in or out of competition before the trials.

They also need to have clocked the required qualifying times in their respective races or events as set by the IAAF.
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Mary Keitany to lead Kenyan charge at New York Marathon

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s Mary Keitany will skip the World Championships in Doha, Qatar in order to make history as the first woman to win five New York Marathon titles in six attempts.

Keitany, who edged out compatriot and Olympic champion Vivian Cheruiyot to clinch her fourth crown in 2018, will be joined by the men’s champion Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa on the streets of New York on November 3.

"New York has become a second home to me, and every year I circle the New York City Marathon on my calendar as a date to look forward to," Keitany said on Wednesday from Eldoret.

"I’m very excited to return on November 3 to race for my fifth New York City Marathon title on my favorite course in the world," the world record holder added.

Last year, Keitany became the second woman after Grete Waitz of Norway to win in New York four times, recording the second-fastest time in the event history in two hours 22 minutes and 48 seconds for her fourth win in five years.

The 2012 and 2016 winner of the World Marathon Majors will be challenged this year by reigning Boston marathon champion Worknesh Degefa, Tokyo marathon winner Ruti Aga, New York Half champion Joyceline Jepkosgei and America’s Olympian Des Linden.

Jepkosgei made her full marathon debut in London, but developed some injury, which saw her fail to finish the race in April.

However, she is not giving up and will return to New York to prove she is worth the distance.

Another Kenyan Nancy Kiprop, a three-time winner of Vienna City marathon, will seek to improve her stakes.

The 40-year-old is upbeat ahead of the race.

"I am looking forward to my first big city marathon debut in New York City.

"This will culminate to reward my years of hard work, learning and growth," Kiprop said.

The men’s race will feature defending champion Desisa, who won his first New York City Marathon title last year in 2:05:59, the second-fastest time in event history.

Runner-up Shura Kitata will be back again this year to challenge Desisa, as will 2017 New York City Marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor, who finished third last year.

"I’m looking forward to defending my title in November and lining up against Shura Kitata, who finished just two seconds behind me last year, and Kamworor, who won the race two years ago," Desisa said.
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Kenya women’s volleyball team ready to defend African Games title

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- African volleyball governing body CAVB has confirmed the men’s and women’s teams that emerged from zonal qualifying games to compete in this year’s African Games.

In the men’s draw, hosts Morocco were grouped with Nigeria, Mauritius and Botswana in Pool A, while Algeria lineup against Egypt, Cape Verde and Cameroon in Pool B.

The women’s category has Morocco battling it out in Pool A against Botswana, Mauritius and Nigeria. Pool B includes Kenya, Cameroon, Senegal and Algeria.

Defending women’s champions Kenya will put everything on the line to fend off any pretender to the throne with the tournament coming just five months ahead of the Olympic qualifiers and a month before the World Cup in Japan.

The team returned home on Tuesday from the Intercontinental Olympic Qualifications in Italy, where they were defeated in all three of their group games.

In the group games, they will face old rivals Cameroon, who also came back home without a win at the Intercontinental Olympic Qualifications. In their last encounter in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations last month, Cameroon edged Kenya 3-2 to bag gold.

Kenya’s head coach Shailene Ramdoo is hopeful he will guide the team to retain the Africa Games title.

"We have one build up match against Morocco before we start the Africa Games.

"We will use it to rectify our mistakes and hope the team will get revenge against Cameroon and not to forget the challenge the other sides will pose," Ramdoo said.

The 2019 African Games will be held from August 19-31 in Rabat, Morocco.
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Kenyan women eye on Olympic ticket ahead
of AFIBA Women’s AfroBasket championship

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) --  Kenya returns to Dakar, Senegal for the FIBA Women’s AfroBasket championship after 26 years aiming to win the ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

In 1993, head coach Ronnie Owino led Kenya to the city to get the ticket to the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 1994 in Australia.

This year, Kenya come into the tournament as the lowest ranked team pooled in a tricky Group D with 2017 bronze medalists Mozambique and Cape Verde, who return to the stage for the first time since 2013.

"Our objective would be to be in the top six teams this year and improve our 10th position finish in 2013," said Owino on Tuesday in Nairobi.

"We also have a chance to fight for the sole Olympic ticket at stake."

The tournament, which has attracted 12 teams, will run from August 10-18.

The top teams in four groups will advance to the quarterfinals, with teams ranked second and third playing qualification round for the last eight.

The teams qualified for the Dakar showdown include reigning champions Nigeria, hosts Senegal, Mali, Mozambique, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Angola, Egypt, Tunisia, Cape Verde, Kenya and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Both Kenya and DRC qualified through wild card invitations.

           

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