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Kenya, Ethiopia set for major showdown in Africa championships

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 4:16 AM


NAIROBI, Jul. 27, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- Kenya and Ethiopia are set to renew their legendary rivalry during the 17th CAA African Senior Athletics Championships that get underway on July 28 to Aug 1.

Over the years, the two East African neighbours have dominated long distance running globally in a show of rivalry akin to that of Jamaica and America in the sprints.

In fact it is whispered that the two nations contributed highly to the diminished interest among nations in the World Cross Country Championships that they dominated like the proverbial colossus and which has since assumed biennial status.

Ethiopia competed at home during the last edition before frenzied crowds and this time it will be Kenya's turn to compete under home support.

Whether the Kenyan crowd will rally behind their stars to a man like their nemesis did two years ago will be confirmed when the games open.

"I have assembled my troops for the big battle and we are raring to go. It is only the starter's gun that is holding us back before we start harvesting medals," national team coach Stephen Mwaniki told Xinhua at the Chinese-built Kasarani Sports Complex Hostels where the team is residing. "We cannot afford to let down our home fans."

The women's 10,000-meter race is a must-watch event that will pit Olympic Champion Tirunesh Dibaba against World Champion Linet Masai.

Masai won the event in Berlin in the absence of the Ethiopian running machine who skipped the championships due to an injury.

"It will be a battle of wits with Masai wanting to reaffirm her position as the queen of the event with Dibaba out to prove that the Kenyan holds it courtesy of her absence at the 2009 World Championships," said former World Marathon record holder Paul Tergat.

The 5,000m women's race will also be a crowd puller that will pit the Kenyan trio led by world champion Vivian Cheruiyot against Dibaba, who will double, and former world champion Meseret Defar.

These two events will have the making of World or Olympic Championship clashes as it is the same runners who race against each other in the finals of the international events.

"The true athletics fan is the person who will turn up at Nyayo Stadium to watch Africa's best athletes, most of whom they have only being watching on television, battle it out for top honours," says LOC Chairman Isaiah Kiplagat who is also the boss of Athletics Kenya.

In the absence of Olympic and World Champion Kenenisa Bekele, the men's 5,000m will be a clash between the battle-hardened former world champion Eliud Kipchoge against Kenenisa's younger brother Tariku.

In a past interview, Kenenisa's father, Byecha, was quoted saying he will never "allow" Tariku to win over his elder brother when they race against each other.

Whether the younger Bekele will mark his turf this time round in the absence of the "king" is a matter of conjecture.

(Source: iStockAnalyst )

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