By CHRIS MUSUMBA

Olympic 5,000m bronze medallist Thomas Longosiwa and Africa cross country women champion Joyce Chepkirui lead a eight member Kenya team to this years Chiba International Ekiden in Japan.

This year’s Chiba Ekiden will take place on November23. Kenya dominated the event last year to claim the overall title.

Longosiwa, a late bloomer, is finally got his footing in a crowded field in the long distance races, and demonstrated his skills in London to battle to third slot in a tense final in the 12-lap race.

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That has earned him another call up for national duty as Athletics Kenya named him to lead the men team that also has Philip Mosima, Lucas Rotich and Dominic Musyimi.

The women team will have Chepkirui, who despite failing to rule the roost at the 10,000m in London Olympic games (she pulled out halfway with an injury), she has redeemed her image by beating her rivals at the Ndalat Gaa cross country in Nandi.  Chepkirui will team up with Veronica Nyaruai, Gladys Cherono and Helen Musyoka for the relay road race, the most popular in Japan.

AK Public Relations Officer Peter Angwenyi said David Miano has been appointed the team leader and will have Florence Kerubo Omundi accompanying him as an official while Daniel Kiptoo Kororia is the team coach.

“The athletes must confirm their acceptance to participate in the relay Ekiden by October 24 for the purposes of putting final logistics in place.

“They should also forward their passports and passport size photographs which should also reach the AK secretariat on the same deadline day,” said Angwenyi.

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Angwenyi said the team was strong to retain the title Kenya won last year.

“When you look at Longosiwa and Chepkirui, they are two strong candidates who can take on any opposition and trounce them. We need to restore our glory in the Ekiden by continuously winning it,” said Angwenyi.

Last year, Patrick Mutunga Mwikya and Edwin Mokua - who ran two 10km stages, helped Kenya win the Chiba International Ekiden.

It was Kenya’s first victory in the Chiba Ekiden since the event became a mixed men’s and women’s race in 2007.  Twelve teams – ten national teams along with a Japanese Collegiate team and a Chiba Prefecture team – contested the six-stage marathon distance Ekiden. The men ran the 5Km first stage, 10Km third stage and 10Km fifth stage, while women ran 5Km second stage, 5Km fourth stage and 7.195Km sixth stage. 

The Kenyan men and Japanese women were superb, as attested by the fact that Kenyan men recorded the stage bests in all three men’s stages, while Japanese women recorded stage bests in all three women’s stages.

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Kenya’s 2:04:40 winning time was a new Chiba Ekiden record for mixed team races, bettering the previous mark of 2:05:27 set by an Ethiopian squad in 2008.

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