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Weary Team Kenya arrives in China

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World marathon record holder, Dennis Kimetto, speaks at JKIA shortly before his departure for China. PHOTO/Alex Isaboke

World marathon record holder, Dennis Kimetto, speaks at JKIA shortly before his departure for China. PHOTO/Alex Isaboke

NAIROBI, August 19- The advance party of Team Kenya for the Beijing World Championships finally arrived in China on Wednesday morning after a gruelling two-day journey weary but fired up for the challenge.

A contingent of 39 athletes and 16 officials departed from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Monday night and disembarked from their China Southern Airlines that only started operations in Kenya last week at Beijing International, ready for action that sets off on Saturday.

“The athletes are upbeat and promised Kenyans not to fail them from Saturday when the championships start. We should pray for the team,” newly elected IAAF Women’s Committee Member and Athletics Kenya (AK) vice-president, Fatuma Abdalla, said from the Chinese capital.

The visibly exhausted athletes who had to endure the long haul flight have little time to shake off the jetlag in the hot and humid conditions of Beijing before they start the medal chase with men marathon.

Record holder, Dennis Kimetto, his predecessor as standard bearer, Wilson Kipsang and Paris Marathon champion, Mark Korir will get the assault for gold underway on Saturday from 2:35am Kenyan time in the men marathon.

The closing event of Day 1 at 3:50pm will see World Cross champion, Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor and silver medallist, Bedan Karoki alongside Worlds bronze winner, Paul Tanui take to the opening track final of the nine-day competition when they attempt to dethrone British double gold winner, Mo Farah, from the men 10,000m throne.

Other Kenyan heavyweights in action on Saturday include three-time champion and team captain, Ezekiel Kemboi, who will lead the star-studded men 3000m steeplechase squad in the qualifiers for the final.

Former and World champion, Brimin Kipruto who won the Olympics crown when Beijing hosted the Games in 2008, African and Diamond League titleholder, Jairus Birech and Worlds silver medallist, Conseslus Kipruto complete the formidable water and barriers line-up.

Commonwealth champion, Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon will then front the fresh-faced women 1500m squad that has Viola Lagat, a sister of former double world champion and American legend, Bernard Lagat and Nancy Chepkwemoi in the preliminary round seeking semi-final qualification.

Having won the world junior title in Beijing in 2006, men 800m record holder, David Lekuta Rudisha who left the Chinese capital as the ‘Pride of Africa’ will launch his campaign to reclaim the two-lap world crown when the heats start at 6:50am.

Surprise Trials winner and Bahamas World Relays silver medallist, Ferguson Rotich and former world junior champion, Alfred Keter complete the men 800m line-up for Beijing.

Kenya won five gold medals at the last edition in Moscow with the seven gold won at the 2011 edition in Daegu, South Korea, the benchmark they are aiming for in Beijing.

The team is residing at the Star Grand Continental hotel and will be joined by their men 1500m, women 5000m and women marathon teams who will depart on Saturday and Sunday.

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