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Sunday, August 1, 2010

African Athletics Championships : Final Day

By Mutwiri Mutuota

Nairobi will bid the 17th Safaricom African Athletics Championships (AAC) farewell with the grand finale last day programme today where all events will see new continental champions crowned.

Veteran David Kimutai and defending champion, Grace Wanjiru who set the event record of 1:39.50 in Addis Ababa are out to set the ball rolling for the hosts when they stride to the 20km men and women race walking finals this morning.

"They are ready to go out there and walk to both gold medals," national race walking coach, George Kariuki, said."Just like Addis, I intend to gift Kenyans another gold medal," Wanjiru pledged while her counterpart, Kimutai, 41, the eldest member of the Kenyan contingent, promised to recapture the title he last scooped in 2004.

"This is a course I know so well and I intend to make full use of that advantage," the seasoned walker stated.

Esther Murugi and Grace Thoithi will join Wanjiru in the medal chase in the women’s event while Kimutai will have Sylvanus Wekesa and Eric Shikuku as partners in the corresponding men’s race that will start at 7am.

Olympics bronze medallist and world leader, Milcah Chemos will team up with Lydia Rotich and Mercy Njoroge in the first final of the afternoon when they take on defending champion, Ethiopia’s Zemzem Ahmed and silver winner, Mekdes Bekele among others in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase.

"In Addis Ababa, I felt bad that we lost the gold since (Ruth) Bosibori had no help. This time, we shall work as a team to ensure the top medal remains here," Rotich, who did not run in Addis after contracting an allergic reaction that left her swollen all over her body, said. Chemos and Rotich have set this season’s IAAF Diamond League alight and are bringing the rich vein of form into these championships.

Other medal prospects for the hosts who are engaged in a neck-to-neck chase for overall honours with South Africa, who have topped the last five AACs are the women’s 800m, men 5,000m, men 1500m and the last event of the day, men 4X400m finals.

Olympics bronze medallist, Edwin Soi, Military Games champion, Mark Kiptoo and former World Junior titleholder, Vincent Yator are seeking to emulate their 10,000m men compatriots, Wilson Kiprop (gold), Geoffrey Mutai (bronze) and Matthew Kisorio (fourth) and complete the distance double. Defending champion, Kenenisa Bekele who is out through injury has passed the baton to younger brother Tariku.