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Kenya marathoners not worried over stars withdrawal

22 July 2013, 12:17 John Kwoba

Nairobi - Withdrawals of some top names from the Kenyan team to the World Championships won't leave coach Abraham Kiplimo without sleep.

The marathon coach, who is taking his charges through the drill in Iten, some 300km northwest of Nairobi, is certain the country will prevail, especially in the 42km distance, where his women team will be on spotlight on the first day of the World Championships which runs from August 10-16 in Moscow, Russia.

"The answer to the critics is simple, we are training harder and we will win simple. We are doing everything possible to retain the titles Kenya won in Daegu in 2011 and marathon was one of the disciplines we triumphed," he said.

"To start off the medal hunt is challenging for a big country like Kenya with much expectations. But the team is okay, we are sharpening a few skills in certain areas we feel demand my attention," said Kiplimo.

"The pillar of our success will certainly be on us working as a team. Hopefully we will even surpass the five gold medals we won in Daegu," he added.

When the curtains raises at the World Championships on Aug.10, the focus will not be on the dope scandals that has bedevilled the track and field competition, but on the prospects of Kenya retaining the women marathon title, which Edna Kiplagat and Catherine Ndereba won in the successive championships in Daegu (2011), Berlin (2009) and Osaka 2007.

Kiplagat is keen to make it three times lucky in the discipline and she knows which gears to switch to when she comes on the course in Moscow.

"I have made enough training. I want to retain my title otherwise, I would not have agreed to go to Moscow," she said Sunday in Iten.

Last year, Kiplagat finished second behind Mary Keitany in London marathon with a personal best of 2:19:50 before returning in the same position this year behind Priscah Jeptoo. Now she is keen to get the winners podium now that both Keitany and Kiptoo will be absent in Moscow.

Kiptoo was left out because of fatigue while Keitany is in motherhood. "I have polished my skills, my speed is okay and my endurance is where I want it to be. Hopefully the weather will be great to me," Kiptoo said.

"This year, I have had build up races in Lisbon and Rock N' Roll half marathons and the only thing we need to work on is the team spirit and we will surpass the feat in Daegu," she added.

But the onus to fly Kenyan flag high in women marathon race in Moscow is not bestowed on Kiplagat alone.

She knows the challenge is imminent from within the Kenya team, and though that is secondary, she is keen to have her cake and eat it, just to anger the nosy Ethiopians.

"I know those in Kenya team are strong. But we all want to win. The most important is for Kenya to retain the titles, and then we will see in the final stages of the race who is stronger to go for it. At the moment we run as a team," she added.

Alongside Kiplagat, there is also 2012 Dubai marathon silver medallist and former Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion Lucy Wangui Kabuu and newcomers Margaret Akai and Valentine Kipketer.

Kabuu, who boasts an impressive 2:1934 personal best she posted in Dubai in 2012, also eyes a share of the glory by winning the 42-kilometre road race.

"I don't enter races if I am not confident of winning. I have sacrificed a lot. I missed the London marathon in April to focus on the World Championships. I have studied the course in Moscow on Internet and realised that there is a hill. This is the place I intend to burn out the opposition. It will be helpful in my strategy," said Kabuu.

Newcomers Kipketer has a personal best time of 2:24.20 (Mumbai Marathon) while Akai best time is 2:23.28 she registered at the Daegu Marathon.

The men team, which is also camped in Iten, has youngsters keen to prove their mettle.

Unlike previous years where Kenya selected big names, there will be no Geoffrey Mutai, Emmanuel Mutai, defending champions Abel Kirui or world marathon record holder Patrick Makau.

Instead, the challenge to bring Kenya glory falls on the shoulder of Peter Some, Michael Kipyego, Bernard Kipyego, Nicholas Kipkemboi and Bernard Koech.

Michael Kipyego, the runner up at the Tokyo Marathon this year, said training under hot weather conditions will boost their resistance in Moscow.

"It's good we get used to the warm conditions. It will help us overcome harsh like the one our women team met in London at the Olympics. We can retain the title but it needs a lot of team work and race tactics," said Kipyego.

Ethiopia will parade a star-studded line up led by London Marathon winner Tsegaye Kebede and Boston Marathon champion Lelisa Desisa.

Abel Kirui won both Daegu (2011) and Berlin (2009) titles ending over 20-year jinx since Douglas Wakiihuri won gold in 1987.

- Xinhua

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