By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's athletics head coach John Kimetto pledged on Monday to lead his team to conquer the rest of the continent at the biannual Africa Cross Country Championships in Chelf, Algeria next month.
Kimetto oversaw the selection of 30 of the finest athletes to represent Kenya in the event, which will bring out the best crop of distance runners from Africa.
However, Kimetto must motivate his charges with some top names, opting to give the event a bye in favor of the World Half Marathon in Valencia, Spain (March 24) and the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham (March 1-4).
"I know top names like world cross champion Geoffrey Kamworor and his silver medallist Bedan Karoki as well as world 5,000m gold medallist Hellen Obiri are not with us. But Kenya has always emerged strong in such times because we have strong team and a big reservoir to pick from," Kimetto told Xinhua in Nairobi.
Two years ago in Yaounde, Cameroon, Kenya staked claim to the eight gold medals on offer and had its national anthem recited all throughout as it celebrated her athletes, who took all the individual and team gold medals on offer at the fourth Africa Cross Country Championship. It was a mighty show of total dominance.
There were only two other athletes, one from Ethiopia and one from Uganda, in the top 24 across the four disciplines in the junior women 6km, junior men 8km, senior women 10km and senior.
"It is wrong to be overconfident in sports. But we have dominated these games in the last four editions and I see no other country, not even Ethiopia having this huge talent to challenge us for the medals. It will not kill the sport, but make us even stronger," said the coach.
However, Kimetto warned that for Kenya to be able to successfully plot their conquest in Chelf, they must review other teams' strengths and weaknesses and see who they will field against their own.
"It is from this that we will be able to say how well prepared we are. But for now, the team will immerse in training and hopefully emerge without injury and claim their spot on the table at the Africa cross country championships," he added.
The team of 30 athletes will pitch camp in Embu town for three weeks to polish their skills.
Athletics Kenya has warned they will not allow any of the selected athletes to compete abroad for fear of burnout.
"Our team as usual is strong. We have opted for both experienced and young athletes to have them get the feeling of top competition. But I believe the rookies will learn their skills from the others use it to showcase their talent in Algeria," he said.