Yaounde heroes eye Olympics, World Junior glory

The victorious team for the 4th CAA Africa Cross Country Championships that swept the medals ...
The victorious team for the 4th CAA Africa Cross Country Championships that swept the medals in Yaounde, Cameroon and AK officials parade with their medals and the Kenyan flag at Nairobi's JKIA on Sunday, March 13, 2006. PHOTO/Courtesy/Michelle Katami

After collecting all titles on offer and ten of the 12 individual medals available at the fourth CAA Africa Athletics Championships in Yaoundé, Cameroon on Saturday, the triumphant team has set sights on more glory at the summer Rio Olympics in Brazil and forthcoming IAAF World Junior Championships in Kazan, Russia.

Having ascended to the top medal on her fourth appearance, senior women 10km champion, Alice Aprot has set her sights on winning a slot in the 10000m for the Olympics after recording her sixth cross country victory of the season in Cameroon.

“We are very happy we went all the way to Yaoundé and came back victorious. The Ethiopians were so tough in the race but we couldn’t let go since we have been running with them for a long time,” the silver medallist from 2014 said when the team received a warm welcome on Sunday evening at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

“Since I lost in the World Cross Country Championship last year, I promised myself to struggle so hard next time. I now hope to be among the 10,000 m team running for Rio Olympics  come July,” Aprot, 24, who added the cross title to her African 10000m crown she won last year in Congo Brazzaville underscored.

Aprot led compatriots, Sheila Chepkirui and Beatrice Mutai to the podium sweep in Cameroon.

James Rungaru, who took the honours in the corresponding men’s 10km senior race after winning the neck-to-neck battle for the gold with Uganda’s Phillip Kipyeko by the razor thin margin of a second (26:34 against 26:35), said the unexpected victory had spurred him on to believe he can make the Olympics as well.

“My focus now is to train for Rio Olympics come August, so that I win myself a ticket there”, Rungaru who first competed for Kenya at the 2011 World Cross Country Championships in Punta  Umbra, Spain stated.

“I also thank my fellow Kenyans for their great support and promise them to win lots of medals in the coming Olympics,” he added.

Ahead of the Yaoundé Rungaru, 23, featured nowhere in the probable winners of the Holy Grail of cross country running, the men’s long race title having finished sixth at the February 13 IAAF Permit/Athletics Kenya National Cross Country Championships.

“We made good efforts as a team and we promised to come home with good titles. We are now focusing on upcoming races, for example Olympics and World Junior,” team captain Cleophas Ngetich who won the men senior 10km team title said.

“We had no challenges as we were fully prepared .As Kenyans we just need to be focused as this is not the end,” women’s captain and 22 year-old Pauline Kaveke added.

She finished seventh in her race, an improvement from the 11th finish she registered when represented the country in the junior competition at the 2013 IAAF World Cross in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

She earned a wild card to Yaoundé after both the 3000m steeplechase champion Hyvin Kiyeng and Janet Kisa withdrew from the team opening up two slots.

In the Junior Men 8km race, Isaac Kipsang sprung an upset when he took gold in 21:33, ahead of  Eritrea’s Aron Kiple and compatriot who was third in 21:48.

“Although the place was too hot, I really thank God I managed to win the race. I knew I was going to win since I train with very experienced people like Moses Masai,” Kipsang said in reference to the fourth finisher in 10000m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and bronze medallist at the World Championships at the same distance a year earlier in Berlin.

“My mind is now set for the junior races set to take place in the East Africa Games in Tanzania and the World Junior 10,000m,” he added.

“The race was tough there in Cameroon but I tried my best. I am now preparing to run in the World Junior Championships in June,” Miriam Cherop who set off the rip-roaring Kenyan show of dominance by winning the junior women 6km title told.

“The competition was very tough but the athletes had trained very well while at Kigali, Embu and they were able to emerge as the overall champions with all eight gold medals available and many other silvers. We have retained the championship and they are set to do good things,” Team Manager, Peter Angwenyi hailed.

“The climate was very hot for us but we were able to do the best since it affected every athlete,” he added.

“Getting an achievement like this is not an easy, I want to assure Kenyans that we are preparing for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics taking place in July and August . We are putting all our expertise and energy on it and I want to assure Kenyans that we are going to get the first position in the Olympic Games,” Athletics Kenya senior vice-president, Paul Mutwii, underscored.

Report by Mercy Rop

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