World Indoor 3,000m champion Caleb Mwangangi leads a strong team of Kenyans for the Karlsruhe Indoor Meeting, the opening event of the 2016 World Indoor Tour on Saturday in Germany.
Mwangangi, the World 5,000m silver medallist and Commonwealth 5,000m champion, will take the track in the 3,000m race alongside 2012 World Indoor 3,000m silver medallist Augustine Choge and Isaiah Kiplangat.
Also in the 7.5 laps battle are 2008 Olympics 5,000m bronze medallist Edwin Soi and Paul Kipsiele Koech, who won bronze in 3,000m steeplechase at the 2004 Olympics.
The Kenyans will take on their Ethiopian rivals Yenew Alamirew and 2015 Diamond League Series 5,000m champion Yomif Kejelcha in a conceivably prelude to the battle for the medals over 3,000m at the World Indoor Championships due for March 17-20 in Portland, USA.
Fast-rising Elijah Manangoi, who won silver in 1,500m at the World Championships last year, 2012 World Junior 800m champion Alfred Kipketer, Collins Cheboi and Bethwel Birgen will field in the 1,500m race.
The Kenyans will however warm up at Wednesday’s Düsseldorf Meeting before heading for the Karlsruhe Indoor Meet.
Before leaving for Europe on Sunday, Mwangangi said that his desire is to defend his World Indoor title before taking a shot at the Olympics 5,000m gold in August.
“I have set my target on accomplishing two things this year,” said Mwangangi.
“I have to defend my indoor title and snatch away the Olympics crown from my friend Mo (Farah).”
Choge, the 2006 Commonwealth Games 5,000m champion, is making a comeback after an injury locked him out virtually the whole of last season.
“It has been a tough battle with a tendon injury that has no medical prescription apart from just relaxing to let it heal,” said Choge.
Karlsruhe Indoor Meeting is one of the four events in the 2016 World Indoor Tour before the World Indoor Championships.
Others are New Balance Indoor Grand Prix due February in Boston - USA, Globen Galan slated for February 17 in Stockholm, Sweden and Glasgow Indoor Grand Prix going down February 20 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Athletics Kenya will name its squad for the World Indoor on February 23.
After a breathtaking 2014 where he won the World Indoor 3,000m, Commonwealth Games 5,000m and World Cup 3,000m titles, Mwangangi would embrace a low key this season in 2015 after he sustained a hamstring injury early in the year.
He would pick up late and despite not taking part at the national trials he got selected to Team Kenya for World Championships in Beijing in August where he won silver, losing to defending champion Mo Farah in the 5000m.
There is a possibility Mwangangi and Farah could clash at the World Indoor Championships.
However, before the big meet Farah has invited Mwangangi for Glasgow Indoor Grand Prix where they will clash in the 3,000m race. “I am looking forward for the battle,” said Mwangangi.
Mwangangi’s rise to the top has been gradual, winning silver in 1,500m at the 2009 World Youth before going for victory in men’s junior race at the 2010 World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland. He went on to win the 1,500m title at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada.
He won the 2011 African Games and 2012 Africa Championships 1,500m title, stayed out of competition in 2013 owing to an injury before returning to a stellar 2014 season where he also won the Diamond League Series besides the Commonwealth, Africa and World Cup crowns.