NAIROBI, March 5 (Xinhua) — Expectations are running high in Embu as Team Kenya starts its month-long training camp ahead of the World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, Denmark on March 30.
Head coach David Letting, however, has warned his 30-strong team not to be complacent having cleared the first hurdle of being selected for the national team.
“I have to warn each athlete that they risk being replaced should they fail to put in their best in training. We have a young and experienced squad which is a good blend for any victory in a championship,” said Letting on Tuesday.
The coach has asked the team to solely focus on training and stop worrying about the potential of their rivals. Ethiopia, the United States, Bahrain, Uganda and Qatar stand out as direct challengers to Kenya’s dominance.
However, Letting feels that with good preparation, his athletes can withstand any kind of pressure.
“We have our own plans. The pressure is on our opponents to prevent Kenyan athletes from running away with all the medals once again. But my athletes need not feel overconfident that they will win easily. It will be war and the best prepared in strategy, strength and skills will excel,” he added.
One of the medal hopefuls is national champion Amos Kirui, who has history stuck against him.
Kirui might have triumphed in Eldoret during the team selection exercise, but his predecessors have all gone on to disappoint on the international scene. In 2010 in Bydgoszcz, Poland, Paul Tanui won in Nairobi but was beaten to eighth in Poland, with Joseph Ebuya triumphant.
A similar situation emerged in 2013, when Japhet Kipyegon Korir excelled in Poland despite Philemon Rono having excelled on the national stage.
Five-time world cross country champion Paul Tergat and the late Paul Koech also faced similar scenarios in the 1990s.
“I’m happy to have won but the hardest part will be to prove my ability to the coaches at the training camp. We have to train hard and prepare well if we want to be victorious in Denmark,” Kirui said.
“Personally, I will strive to come back home with a medal. We should strategize as a team at the camp. I believe the only way to dominate in Denmark will be to cultivate teamwork and unity,” he added.
World 5,000m champion Helen Obiri said she is ready to go for her first gold medal in cross country. “This is the one medal missing from my collection and I am focused on winning it in Denmark,” she said.
Obiri will team up with world steeplechase record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, Kampala 2017 bronze medalist Lilian Kasait, along with Deborah Samum, Eva Cherono and Beatrice Mutai.
Letting said the team will undergo intensive training, adding that the challenge will come from all 60 countries present in Denmark.
“We know many countries are really working hard to beat Kenya but we are going to make sure we improve our performance from the previous championships in Kampala,” said Letting.
Kenya will be hunting for the elusive junior medals that they missed out on in Kampala in 2017, when they only bagged bronze through Richard Kimunyan and Celliphine Chespol in the men’s and women’s categories respectively.
In the senior category, defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor will be looking for a third title after he led his compatriot Leonard Barsoton in a 1-2 finish in Kampala.
Kamworor will team up with Kimunyan, Evans Keitany, former world Under-20 champion in 10,000m Rodgers Kwemoi, former world Under-20 3,000m steeplechase champion Amos Kirui and world Under-20 10,000m champion Rhonex Kipruto.