NAIROBI, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Kenyan athletes selected for the Africa Games will have to seek special permission to compete in the lucrative Diamond League.
Head coach Julius Kirwa has warned that Kenya is under pressure to deliver the medals at the Africa Games and will need its best talent to remain fresh and avoid burn out ahead of the competition slated for Rabat, Morocco from August 16-30.
"There is pressure on Kenya especially in middle and long distance. Uganda, Eritrea and Ethiopia have upped their game. The host Morocco will also seek to dominate and this will eat into our medal haul. Therefore, to challenge that, we need our elite runners to remain fresh and focused on the task ahead," said Kirwa on Tuesday in Nairobi.
In the last games held in Brazzaville, Congo in 2015, Nigeria topped the medals standings with 21 medals, 10 gold, six silver and five bronze ahead of Ethiopia in second with 20 (6-7-7) while Kenya settled for third place with 17 medals, five gold, five silver and seven bronze.
"We need to return to the top and athletics has been our best bet. That is why we must have our best talent in right frame of mind to scope the medals," said Kirwa.
Coach Kirwa says he is confident with the team selected for the games as they have the quality and experience to fight for the medals. Kenya has selected 61 athletes for the games, which are viewed as a mini-Olympics.
"I have had to lead teams with less quality and I believe the difference is in the focus and concentration. They can achieve anything they set their minds on and we need to help them attain their optimal best.
"Some of these athletes are returning from injuries and need to shake off their rust. It will be good if they immerse themselves in training and hope to stun the continent in Morocco," he added.
Kirwa, one of the country's most successful coaches having guided Kenya in 2008 and 2012 Olympics, is optimistic the team will deliver medals in August.
"The quality of the team is okay and there's no worry about that. When we go to camp, we must put our thoughts together, athletes and coaches alike because to succeed, we must be united. We will mold them pretty well to give us impressive performances in Morocco.
"Athletes will give permission to compete in the Diamond League series based on the duration that we will train," added Kirwa.
Athletics Kenya vice president in charge of competitions Paul Mutwii believes with good show in Morocco, Kenya will be on the right course to dominate at the World Championships, which will be held in Doha, Qatar in October.