by John Kwoba
NAIROBI, June 18 (Xinhua) -- Kenya might end up fielding a second string team to the Africa Games as more elite runners confirm they will skip the national trials and the finals in Rabat, Morocco in August.
With little stake up to lose, elite runners including Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Kipyegon, World Champion Elijah Manangoi, Africa 5,000m champion Edward Zakayo and U.S.-based Africa 800m silver medalist Emmanuel Korir and Michael Saruni are all expected to give the Africa Games a bye.
Kenya will be selecting its final team during the national trials in Nairobi this weekend, but the ballooning number of snubs is alarming.
"Kenyans trials are no joke. They are explosive with new names merging each year. I am not in my best form and I don't want to embarrass myself running in the semis and finals," said Zakayo on Tuesday in Nairobi.
The elite athletes, however, say they intend to be ready for the World Championships, which will be held from Sept. 28 to Aug. 6 in Doha Qatar. The African Games are planned from August 23 to September 3 in Rabat, Morocco.
"My focus is to defend my crown in Doha. The Africa Games have come too early and I will be happy to pass it on to the upcoming athletes, who need to make a name," said Manangoi, who also intends to double up should he be allowed running in 5,000m race.
Athletics has been Kenya's golden goose at international competition and all its five gold medals from Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo in 2015 came from the track and field.
Athletics Kenya vice president Paul Mutwii has warned the elite athletes risk being omitted from the World Championships team, should they skip the Africa Games.
But the elite runners are holding their stand and will instead seek to polish their skills running in the lucrative Diamond League, even if they are not fit.
"The Africa Games are coming too soon for me," said Zakayo. "I want to get back to my best form before committing to run."
Zakayo, the Commonwealth 5,000m bronze medalist, finished seventh, but with a personal best in Rome on June 6, before winning in Rabat on Sunday in a slow 13:11.49.
"I had not recovered fully from an illness just before Rome, but had to compete since I had signed or the race. I wanted to test my body in Rabat, but despite winning I still feel not strong for the Africa Games trials," said Zakayo.