NAIROBI, June 24 (Xinhua) -- There were seven wild cards given out as Kenya named a strong team of 63 athletes and 12 officials to the Africa Championships, which will be held in Asaba, Nigeria from Aug 1-5.
The Kenya team will pitch camp in Nairobi for training from July 9 for three weeks before heading to Nigeria.
Commonwealth and World 1,500m champion Elijah Manangoi will return to the continental games despite missing the Kenyan national championships, which were used as the trials.
Other who received wild card selection include World Youth 5,000m silver medalist Edward Zakayo, Beijing 2015 World 400m hurdles champion Nicholas Bett, Commonwealth 10,000m silver medalist Stacy Ndiwa (10,000m), USA based Emmanuel Korir (800m) and Jane Chege (400m hurdles).
Kenya faces a big challenge in its bid to improve on the 17 medals it clinched in Durban, South Africa in 2016.
South Africa and Nigeria have dominated the Africa championships and will be out to retain their prowess in the games, in which the best two athletes across the finish line in each of the disciplines will secure a ticket to the World Cup (IAAF Continental Cup), which will be held in Ostrava, Czech Republic in Sept.
Among the top names that booked their ticket include World and Olympic 3,000m steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto and 5,000m Olympic silver medalist Hellen Obiri.
Kipruto is making his debut at the championships and targets gold in the water and hurdles event, the only medal missing in his illustrious collection.
"There is always a first time for everything. I will make my debut and want to feel the experience of Africa championships. I have remained injury free for two months and I believe it will be a good competition for Kenya team. I want to make the Africa team to the World Cup," said Kipruto in Nairobi.
"Running below 8:20 minutes in Nairobi, a high altitude ground is very promising. This means later in the season I shall attempt the steeplechase record in Monaco," added Kipruto.
Kenyan will also look at women's national javelin champion Damacline Nyakeruri and national high jump record holder Matthew Sawe and Julius Yego to dominate the field event competition.
Yego last featured at the Africa championships in 2014 winning gold. Sawe was in Durban in 2016 and won gold in high jump. She will be out to defend her crown in Nigeria.
Commonwealth Games medalist Beatrice Chepkoech (9:23.73), Cellphine Chepsol (9:28.36) and Fancy Cherono (9:37.62) will be the women to beat in the steeplechase race while Olympian and All-African Games silver medalist Boniface Mweresa swill carry the country flag in the 400m race.
"It is always a dream to representing Kenya. I want to win gold in Nigeria and make the Africa team," said Mweresa.