Elite runners collide at national championships

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By AYUMBA AYODI
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Some of Kenya’s finest athletes are up for a pulsating showdown as National Athletics Championships get underway Thursday at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi.

Olympic 800m bronze medallist Margaret Nyairera and World Cross Country silver medallist Alice Aprot lead Kenya Prisons assault while three times World 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop will spearhead Kenya Police battle.

Olympic 400m hurdles silver medallist Boniface Mucheru from Kenya Defence is the man to beat in his forces team that also has Africa 5,000m champion Douglas Kipserem  and the 2012 Olympic 3,000m steeplechase bronze medallist Abel Mutai.

Nyairera, who won the 400m title at last year’s Nationals, will compete in her 800m specialty this time round while Aprot, who is also the Africa and African Games 10,000m champion will be seeking to defend her title in the 25-lap race.

Nyairera, who has been training at Nyayo Stadium since arriving from USA where she finished second in 800m at the Prefontaine Classic, said she opted to change from 400m to 800m to avoid burnout as she eyes a berth in the Word Championships.

“The 800m will probably have one or two heats before the final hence no pressure while the 400m has many heats,” said Nyairera, the World Indoor 800m bronze medallist, who will also compete in the 4x400m and 4x100m relays for Prisons.

Nyairera, who is also the Africa 400m silver medallist, said that she wants to be in great shape before the London World Championships due August 4-13.

“My endurance is superb and the short races are part of my speed work. I have realised that I run out of gas in the last 200m,” said Nyairera, who finished second behind Olympic and World champion Caster Semenya in Doha and Eugene.

“I started by preparations in February and I think things could have been different if I started much earlier in December,” said Nyairera.

Also in the Prisons team for the nationals are the 400m hurdles national champion Maureen Jelagat, who has just arrived from Germany, and Africa and All Africa Games 10,000m champion Alice Aprot, who is also the World Cross Country silver medallist.

World Under-20 1,500m champion Kumari Taki will battle it out for Prisons in 800m while Africa 5,000m silver medallist Wilfred Kimitei will compete in his specialty.

Kiprop will lead said he has fully recovered after a bout of flu that saw him finish a distant seventh at Prefontaine Classic on May 27.

“I took some strong antibiotic on the eve of the race and the morning which really weakened my body,” said Kiprop. “But I am okay now and ready for the national championships.”

Also in Police team are national 400m hurdles champion Haron Koech and his brother Nicholas Bett, who the reigning World 400m hurdles champion.

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