Kenya opts for youth in Daegu Worlds

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Kenya opts for youth in Daegu Worlds

NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenya have opted for youth over experience for the upcoming World Athletics Championships in Daegu, with eyes focused on the bigger prizes on offer at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

More than half of the 48-member squad are under 25-years-old, while the rest have represented Kenya in past Worlds and Olympics.

“This is a very good combination,” said head coach Peter Mathu, who led Kenya to top the medals table at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi last October.

“Every year we are having new faces in the team. This time we have selected the best athletes for Daegu and I think our performance will be the best compared to the previous years.”

Deputy head coach Sammy Rono added: “This is basically our team for the London Olympic Games. We might only make some changes to the women’s 800 meters, where the juniors are knocking on the doors.”

Among the rookies in the current side is U.S.-based Sally Kipchoge, who will compete in the 10,000 meters alongside Vivian Cheruiyot and defending champion Linet Masai.

“It is a great opportunity to compete in my first world championships,” said Kipchoge, a nine-time NCAA champion who has a personal best of 30 minutes, 38 seconds and 10 seconds in the 10,000 meters.

Others are the 22-year-old Silas Kiplagat, who is the top 1500-meter runner in the world this year and the current Commonwealth champion.

Kiplagat will partner the Olympic 1500-meter champion Asbel Kiprop in Daegu, and has been tipped as the man to end Kenya’s elusive search for gold in the World Championships’ 1500-meter event.

“I know a lot of hope has been placed on me. I believe in myself but first of all I have to make it to the finals before I can say I will win the first World 1500-meter gold for Kenya,” said Kiplagat, who is only in his second year in athletics.

David Rudisha will also be looking to make up for his disappointment in Berlin in 2009, when he was eliminated in the semifinal, by taking the men’s 800-meter crown.

He twice bettered Wilson Kipketer’s world record in the two-lap race but will have to prove that he is capable of performing without a pacemaker at the Worlds.

Milcah Chemos, the winner of the bronze medal in the women’s 3000-meter steeplechase in Berlin, is also red-hot favorite to become the first Kenyan World champion since the race was started in 2005.

The 25-year-old African and Commonwealth champion, Chemos is undefeated in the Diamond League this season.

Kenya will field all four reigning champions, along with four of the five silver medallists from Berlin in 2009, with the hope of adding more medals to improve their fourth-place finish in the German capital two years ago.

Both Linet Masai and Vivian Cheruiyot, the women’s 10,000-meter and 5,000-meter champions respectively, will take the opportunity of the time lapse between both events to double up in Daegu.

The men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi leads a strong lineup that includes the Beijing Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto and the African and Commonwealth champion Richard Mateelong.

Kipruto came from a long layoff to come close to breaking the world record with a sub-eight run in the Monte Carlo Diamond League in late July, to show his return to form after his victory in the Kenya national championships a week earlier.

The 25-year-old should be in a strong position to reclaim the World title he won in Osaka, Japan, in 2007, after disappointing results in the last two championships.

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