Pressure on Kenya athletes mounts as Uganda, Ethiopia eye stake in Africa Games

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NAIROBI, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's athletics head coach Julius Kirwa says the country is under excess pressure to firm their grip and dominance over the Africa Games, which starts in Rabat, Morocco from August 23 to September 3.

Kenya secured five gold, nine silver and six bronze in the 2015 Africa Games held in Brazzaville, Congo. Among the gold medalists were Clement Kemboi (3,000m steeplechase), Margaret Chelimo (5,000m), Alice Aprot (10,000m), Grace Wanjiru (20km race walk) who all intend to defend their titles in Rabat.

But the emergence of Uganda, host Morocco, Ethiopia and Nigeria has left coach Kirwa itchy as they encroach on Kenya's turf that is the middle and long distance races.

"It gets tough each year. But we have our own challenge because some of our athletes are not keen to compete in Rabat," said Kirwa on Sunday. "We have to parade the best and we will do everything possible in training to make sure we have a strong team."

Athletics Kenya will select at least 65 athletes to represent the country in the track and field events, the biggest out of the whole contingent.

Kirwa will focus specifically on the middle and long distance races, the golden goose of Kenyan athletics. Stephen Mwaniki, who led Kenya to the 2018 Africa Athletics Championships and this year's World Relays Championships, will handle sprints while national shot put record holder Elizabeth Olaba will oversee field events.

AK senior vice president Paul Mutwii said that the team has three days to come up with the criteria for selection for athletes and officials during training camps and competitions ahead of the Games.

Kenya's training camp for the Africa Games will start on July 28 in Nairobi. Enditem

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