Expectant Kenyan athletics team off to London for World Championships

By John Kwoba

NAIROBI, August 1 (Xinhua) — Hopes are high as Kenya’s first batch of 28 athletes departs from Nairobi on Tuesday for the London World Championships, where they will face a huge challenge to successfully defend their overall title won in 2015.

Kenya, which will have a full team of 54 athletes, aims to better its last performance in the Beijing World Championships where they scooped up 16 medals – seven gold, six silver and three bronze.

Jamaica was second with 12 medals -seven gold, two silver and three bronze- while the United States settled for third place with 18 medals – six gold, six silver and six bronze.

Head coach Julius Kirwa was emphatic the team will perform well despite the last minute withdrawal of Olympic and World 800m champion David Rudisha.

“This team is not about a single individual. All these athletes merit to be included in the team and they will do their best to secure medals for Kenya in London. But we also know that there will be stiff challenge in traditionally Kenyan competition in middle and long distance,” Kirwa said by telephone on Tuesday.

“However, time and again we have proved that Kenya can produce athletes who can go and win medals in events not previously known to be controlled by Kenya. So it’s up for grabs and the best athletes will triumph,” he added.

The women’s 800m will be led by Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Nyairera, who has openly taken her turf war to the doorsteps of South African Caster Semenya.

Nyairera clocked her fourth personal best time of the season in 1:59.68 when she won in Nairobi during the national trials and stretched the tape at the Monaco Diamond League. She will have Eunice Sum, the African and Commonwealth 800m champion, to partner with.

There was no surprise in the men’s 10000m, as World Cross Country champion Geoffrey Kamworor will join Bedan Karoki and Paul Tanui in a remake of the team that represented Kenya in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Kamworor, the two-time world cross country and world half-marathon champion, said the trio will work as a team to topple Britain’s two-time world 10000m champion, Mo Farah.

The marathon teams of Edna Kiplagat, Helah Kiprop and Flomena Cheyech (women) and London marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru, Boston winner Geoffrey Kirui and Tokyo silver medallist Gideon Kipketer (men) will be vying for a Kenyan victory in the longest race of the championships.

Following is a roster of the Kenyan Team: Aaron Koech, Maximilla Imali, Edna Kiplagat, Helah Kiprop, Flomena Cheyech, Daniel Wanjiru, Geoffrey Kirui, Gideon Kipketer, Raymond Kibet, Collins Omae, Bonface Mweresa, Faith Chepngetich, Winnie Chebet, Conseslus Kipruto, Jairus Birech, Brimin Kipruto, Ezekiel Kemboi, Bedan Karoki, Paul Tanui, Agnes Tirop, Irene Cheptai, Alice Aprot, Mark Otieno, Emmanuel Korir, Kipyegon Bett, Ferguson Rotich and Julius Yego.