Kenya seeks to extend its continental dominance in middle and distance running at the 19th CAA Africa Senior Athletics Championships in Marrakech starting Sunday.
Kenyan charges return to the Moroccan city for the third time after posting impressive performance at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in 1998 and fifth IAAF World Youth Championships in 2005, where world 5,000m silver medalist Mercy Cherono launched her career.
Their outing to the bi-annual continental showpiece, which has turned lately an East African affair in the middle and distance races, offers the stage for Africa to form a team to the Inter-Continental Championships set for the same venue next month.
Cherono and world indoor champion Caleb Mwangangi are expected to lead the medal hunt in 5,000m against old foes Ethiopia.
“The Ethiopians know I am a tough guy and they must come prepared for a tough competition. I will change the hairstyle, but my Akamba dance will be the same. It will be a great race,” read one of Mwangangi’s posts on social media.
Cherono, who went to Marrakech for the IAAF track and field youth version in 2005, is hot favourite for gold.
“We did well in Glasgow (Commonwealth Games) and hope to do the same here. If all goes well, we will bring home many medals and even top the list,” Cherono, who led a top two finish for Kenya at the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, told Saturday Nation Sport on phone.
Two-time Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi has another chance to beat youngsters Jonathan Ndiku and Jairus Birech, who won gold and silver respectively the 3,000m steeplechase in Glasgow, forcing Kemboi to settle for bronze.
Commonwealth gold and silver medalists James Magut and rising star Ronald Kwemoi will fly the national flag in the 800m.
World record holder David Rudisha will miss the action.
And so will Asbel Kiprop and Silas Kiplagat in the 1,500m.
TRAINS IN KAPTAGAT
Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro, who trains in Kaptagat, has a tough race in the 10,000m.
Fresh from making history at the Commonwealth Games as the first Kenyan to win a medal in field events, Julius Yego is keen to go one better in North Africa. The CID officer is out to add the Africa crown to his Commonwealth and All Africa Games titles to his fledging trophy cabinet.
In the women’s 800m, much is expected from Kenyans as world champion Eunice Sum seeks to improve on the silver medal she won in Porto Novo, Benin, in 2012. Commonwealth Games medalists Joyce Jepkirui, Florence Kiplagat and Emily Chebet will fly the flag in 10,000m.