All roads lead to Nyayo

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NAIROBI, Kenya, July 26- The crème de la crème of African athletes will be on show when the 17th edition of the African Athletics Championships kicks off in Nairobi, Kenya on Wednesday at the Nyayo National Stadium.A record number of entrants from 35 countries will take part in the five-day event which is taking place in the mecca of middle and long distance running.

Having cheered and watched the continent’s top athletes perform the world over, athletics fans will have the chance to watch them strut their stuff on African soil.

And with so many world, Olympic and Commonwealth champions, the championships in Nairobi will resemble a mini-world championships or one of the elite Golden League meets.

World 800m men’s champion, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, will lead a South African squad of 30 entrants. Ethiopia is sending 85 entrants, including stars like Tirunesh Dibaba, Meseret Defar, Meselech Melkamu and Gelete Burka.

Nigeria has not been left behind with 44 competitors, including the reigning Africa 100m champion Oludamola Osayomi. Add the likes of Amantle Montsho of Bostwana and Halima Hachlaf of Morocco and you have a star-studded cast.

Kenyan fans are the luckiest as they will get a chance to watch their heroes and heroines battle it out against their rivals. Olympic champions Nancy Jebet Langat and Asbel Kiprop, world champions Vivian Cheruiyot, Ezekiel Kemboi and Linet

Masai, as well as Janeth Jepkosgei, David Rudisha and Richard Mateelong will all be on show.

Consequently, there will be a number of intriguing battles on the track. Mulaudzi’s battle with Rudisha, who is also the reigning Africa 800m champion, will be mouth-watering as the powerful Kenyan is in the form of his life while the South African remains one of the more experienced and dangerous opponents on the track.

The Ethiopia against Kenyan rivalry has dominated athletics for as long as one can remember and Nairobi will provide the perfect battle ground for the latest sequel between these two historical rivals.

World 5000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot will take on former world champion and world indoor 3000m winner Meseret Defar. The petite Kenyan won in Berlin but Defar turned the tables in Doha a clash for the ages in Nairobi.

In the 10 000m, Tirunesh Dibaba will attempt to wrestle the mantle from the top 10 000m woman in Linet Masai. The long-legged 21-year-old Kenyan took advantage of Dibaba’s absence from injury and poor form to win the world title in Berlin last year and silver at the world cross country championships.

Another key battle will be in the 1500m with Olympic champion Nancy Jebet Langat up against Gelete Burka. The duo have beaten each other once this season and will battle it out as Burka attempts to defend the crown she won on home soil two years ago.

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