Kenya’s javelin sensation Julius Yego and world 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri will be among the elite athletes eyeing a return to the African Athletics Championships having skipped competition two years ago.
Olympic silver medalist Yego has been training in Europe and returned to Kenya for final preparations ahead of the national championships in Nairobi from Thursday, which will serve as trials for the Africa Championships.
Only the top two athletes in each discipline will secure their tickets to the competition in Asaba, Nigeria. This year’s event, which runs from August 1st to 5th, will be the 21st edition and will feature athletes from every one of Africa’s 54 states.
Speaking in Nairobi, Yego said he had gained tremendous ground since returning to action, after he battled groin and ankle injuries that saw him lose the world title last year in London.
“I have returned to action and managed to throw the javelin over 80 meters twice in Ostrava and Finland. Now the focus will be to make the Kenya team, compete in one more Diamond League event and head to Nigeria to try and win the Africa title,” he said on Tuesday.
However, for Obiri, the allure of competing at the Athletics World Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic in September is what motivates her to return to the continental championships. Four years ago, she made the cut, but ultimately failed to win the 1,500m race.
“In my two previous appearances at the Africa Championships, I always competed in the 1,500m race. This will be my first time at the Africa Championships as a 5,000m athlete. In 2014 I won the 1,500m title in Mauritius but did not manage a podium finish during the World Cup,” said Obiri on Tuesday in Nairobi.
A sabbatical from competition to give birth to her first child and loss of form in 2018 have taken the wind out of Obiri’s sails.
However, she is confident of returning to top form ahead of Kenya’s trial this weekend and hopes she will go on to excel in Nigeria and also in Ostrava for the IAAF World Cup on September 8th and 9th.
“I’m confident in my training and I can see good results ahead, especially during the IAAF Athletics World Cup. I hope when I compete in the 3,000m it will erase the disappointments of 2014 when I finished fourth (4:08.15) and out of the medal bracket,” added Obiri.
Other athletes to look out for include Elijah Manangoi, the World and Commonwealth Games 1,500m champion, 400m hurdler Nicholas Bett, defending high jump champion Mathew Sawe and walking race duo Samuel Gathimba and Grace Wanjiru.
Kenya will be hoping to form a strong team to wrest the overall title from South Africa and hosts Nigeria, who have dominated the competition in recent years.
Ethiopia, Uganda and Morocco are also expected to feature strongly in the quest for medals.