Kiyeng aims to snatch back steeplechase title on return to Africa Games

Source: Xinhua| 2019-08-08 19:56:48|Editor: Wu Qin
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NAIROBI, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Beijing 2015 steeplechase world champion Hyvin Kiyeng is hopeful to reclaim her title as she returns to the Africa Games, which will be staged in Rabat, Morocco from August 19-31.

"I am optimistic of reclaiming my title. We have a strong team and our sole goal is to win all the three medals. The training is okay and we have the capacity to perform better than we did in 2015," Kiyeng told Xinhua here on Thursday.

Kiyeng last won gold in the water and hurdle race in 2011 in Maputo, Mozambique and skipped the 2015 edition in Brazzaville, Congo.

The Olympic silver medalist has failed to produce in recent years the top form that saw her cruise to victory in Beijing World Championships four years ago.

However, she believes she has turned the page on her fitness and injury worries and will launch her medal hunt this season in Rabat and reach her peak at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar in October.

"There are strong challengers in the Kenya team," Kiyeng said. "But the focus is on me running my won race and beating any tactics my opponents will put in place. The Africa Games are critical to any athlete and will serve as a good build up for the World Championships."

In Rabat, Kiyeng will not only have Uganda and Ethiopia runners to worry about - the real challenge that will be posed by compatriot and world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, while the fast-rising Mercy Wanjiru is the third Kenyan runner.

Chepkoech failed to sparkle at both Rio Olympics and the London World Championships finishing fourth in both events.

She has signaled her intent to win a medal to her name and the Africa Games serves the best platform to start her medal haul to add on the world record.

Kenya's athletics head coach Julius Kirwa is optimistic the squad of 61 will perform well given it comprises world beaters.

"I am not worried. By the look of things, this is the best team we have ever had. I have watched them and I am impressed. Our main mission in Morocco is to win," Kirwa said, adding that with the support of the government, the team would have better performance in athletics than they did in Brazzaville in 2015 when they claimed five golds.

One of the stars who will be keen to use the Africa Games to brush off the cobwebs will be world and Olympic steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto, who has been battling a foot injury since May.

Kipruto will team up with Benjamin Kigen and Joash Kiplimo in the water and hurdle race.

"The target is to get fit for the World championships title defense. The Africa Games will help me gauge my fitness after the injury," Kipruto said.