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AK upbeat despite Commonwealth athletes pull-out

Athletics Kenya Lt. Gen (Rtd) Jack Tuwei addresses the press in a past function at Riadha House. PHOTO/ Raymond Makhaya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 15- Athletics Kenya (AK) is confident they will send a strong team to the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia despite most of the high profile names giving the games a wide berth.

AK is set to conduct trials to select the team to represent the country on Saturday at the Kasarani Stadium, but most of the top athletes will not be keen on attending.

“These games have come at a very strange time; normally Commonwealth Games are held in August. This time it comes very early and it is when most athletes have started preparing and quite a number are not ready. We are aware there are some who don’t want to run but we must respect that,” AK boss Gen (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei said on Thursday.

Tuwei further said the only athlete who has so far officially communicated her absence from the trials is world 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri who is currently in Poland for the fourth stop of the World Indoor Tour.

Obiri is also scheduled to compete at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, United Kingdom next month and she has opted to concentrate on the 3,000m race she will compete in.

World 800m champion David Rudisha who won silver in the last championship in Glasgow, Scotland as well as three-time world 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop will miss the trials. Tuwei said that Kiprop is bereaved with his kin’s burial set for next Tuesday.

Also missing from the trials is World 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon who is out on maternity leave.

Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon celebrates after winning the final of the women’s 1,500m at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London on August 7, 2017

“There are a few days left and we expect more athletes to official communicate to us. But even despite that, we will field a very strong team,” Tuwei further noted.

The AK boss has also affirmed that they retain confidence in the marathon team selected earlier and already in training, despite disquiet that it is not the strongest Kenya could field.

“We stand by our decision and that team will represent us. Those were the strongest available because most are looking at the major marathons which will be starting in April,” he said.

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AK announced that there won’t be wildcards for the games which start on April 4-15 in Gold Coast, Australia with the first three finishers across the line earning a ticket to fly the Kenyan flag.

Among the athletes expected to grace the trials include the returning Janeth Jepkosgei who returns after maternity break as well as reigning world 1500m champion Elijah Manang’oi who is eager to add a Commonwealth medal to his collection.

At the same time, the team to represent Kenya at the Birmingham indoor games will be named on Monday.

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