James Magayi @magayijim
Battle lines have been drawn ahead of this weekend’s IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic where nine Kenyan athletes will team up with scores more from Africa to represent the continent.
Africa will be up against three other continental blocks; Europe, Asia-Pacific and Americas with Athletics Kenya president Jack Tuwei tasked with leading the African Team as chief of mission to the 11th edition of the championships.
Continental Cup is held every four years with the longest race being 3,000m. While Kenyans may have met some of the stiffest track competitions from fellow African athletes, in Ostrava they will run as a team against the rest of the world.
First time Diamond Trophy winner Emmanuel Korir will team up with Botswana’s Nijel Amos to spearhead Africa’s medal hunt in the men 800m. The duo ran against each other in Africa Senior Athletics Championships just over a month ago with Amos carrying the day.
World Champion Elijah Manangoi and Uganda’s Ronald Musagala are Africa’s hopes in men 1,500m where they will be up against European duo of Marcin Lewandoski and Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Ryan Gregson of Asia-Pacific among others.
African champion Edward Zakayo is primed for his second crown when he teams up with Ethiopia’s Getaneh Molla. His biggest threat comes from Americas’ duo of Paul Chelimo and Mohammed Ahmed.
Sensational Conseslus Kipruto and Soufiane Elbakkali of Morocco will put their Diamond League travails behind and team up in the 3,000m Steeplechase with Evan Jager and John Koech the main threats.
High jumper Mathew Sawe will have to soar a few more inches higher than his 2.30 personal best to land the title in Ostrava as he goes to the event sixth best. Donald Thomas of Bahamas is top ranked with 2.37 season’s best followed by Brandon Starc and Eddin Ghazal of Asia-Pacific on 2.36.
Javelin star Julius Yego must also regain his best form to land the Continental Cup as he goes into the championship ranked seventh out of eight participants.
Only three Kenyan women are in the cards; Winny Chebet, Helen Obiri and Beatrice Chepkoech gunning for glory in 1,500m, 3,000m and 3,000m steeplechase respectively.
Chebet is primed for a glorious closure to this season’s track campaign as other top mile runners around the world are missing. Chebet will however, watch over her shoulders for African compatriot Arafi Rababe and Europe’s Sofia Ennaoui.
Obiri will spur with Sifan Hassan again after their scintillating display in the Diamond League final. Chepkoech on the other hand is peerless in the steeplechase at the moment and is widely expected to power to glory in Ostrava. She broke the world record and won both African and Diamond League titles in the last three months.