NAIROBI, Kenya, September 3- African athletes will take on the rest the world at the IAAF Continental Cup in Croatia this weekend.
It will be a unique experience as athletes who usually compete against each other throughout the season come together to represent their mother continent against the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific in the two-day event.
The African team will be spearheaded by freshly-minted world record holder David Rudisha, who only last weekend shattered his own 800m record, setting a new world best time of 1:41.01.
The 1500m team will be led by Olympic and Africa champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya, African championship silver medallist Amine Laalou of Morocco, second fastest on the 2010 world lists, and Ethiopia’s Mekonnen Gebremedhin.
Ethiopia’s Tariku Bekele and Vincent Yator of Kenya will lead the chase for medals in the 3000m race with their biggest challenge emanating from Kenyan-born American Bernard Lagat. Africa’s 5000m trio will start as heavy favourites to win with Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro, Africa champion Edwin Soi of Kenya and Ethiopia’s Imane Merga tipped to sweep the podium.
Two-time Africa champion Richard Mateelong will seek to add the continental crown to his bulging collection when he lines up in the 3000m steeplechase
with Uganda’s Benjamin Kiplagat and Roba Gari of Ethiopia also set to feature.
Ivorian Ben Youssef Meité and Ghanaian Aziz Zakari will duke it out with the likes of Daniel Bailey and Christophe Lemaitre in the men’s 100 metres while South Africa’s double African champion LJ Van Zyl will spearhead the continent’s challenge in the 400m hurdles.
World silver medalist Khotso Mokoena will get another chance to end the season on a high in the long jump.
The women’s team is just as strong, if not stronger. Double Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba and reigning world and Africa champion Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya will be the major attractions in the women’s 5000m. Olympic and African champion Nancy Jebet Langat and Gelete Burka of Ethiopia will form a tag team in the 1500m while Africa champion Milka Chemos will be the leading African flagbearer in the women’s steeplechase.
Africa 100m champion Blessing Okagbare will look to complete a unique double when she lines up in the women’s 100m and long jump events.
Each continental team must have two athletes per event, except in the 1500m, 3000m, 3000m steeplechase and 5000m where three athletes may enter with two to score.
Additionally, the athletes must be drawn from different countries. Team standings determined by the overall points total of men and women combined with the team with the most points being crowned the overall winner of the IAAF Continental Cup.