Kenya’s squad to next week’s 42nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda, has fired a warning shot to its competitors.
Yesterday, the athletes said they were ready to take on their challengers, a majority of them with Kenyan roots, when the games start at the Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala.
Defending World Cross Country champions Agnes Jebet Tirop and Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor vowed to lead the Kenyan onslaught.
Jebet, who is making a comeback after a career threatening injury ruled her out of action since 2015, said she was in top form.
“I am confident we will beat them. We are well prepared for them. I know we will have Kenya A (the national team) and Kenya B (those who switched nationalities to other nations) in Kampala.
“But I am sure we will beat them squarely.
“They may think they have mastered our tactics, but let me tell you that we will surprise them.
“Wazi wazi ko chebane (Why should I be worried? I have confidence),” she said in Kalenjin after training on dusty roads in Runyenjes near Kigari, Embu, yesterday.
Bahrain, Turkey, Uganda, USA and Qatar have a majority of athletes with Kenyan origin.
Jebet, who comes from Kesses in Uasin Gishu County, said she is fired up for rivals Ethiopia.
“I am sure our team is strong enough to stop the Ethiopians. I will give it my best.
“I have the advantage of having competed at the course in 2014,” said Jebet, who won the junior Africa Cross Country title at the flat course in 2014.
The 22-year-old Jebet –who also anchored Kenya into reclaiming the overall women junior title at the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland in 2013 –comes from a family with a rich athletics pedigree, with her siblings Everline Jepng’etich and Mathew Ruto also competing in 5,000m.
“We usually encourage one another every time in training at home. It is my dream that we make the World Youth team with my younger sister,” said Jebet.
“I love athletics. Every time, I think of athletics. Even during Physical Education (PE) lessons, I do practice running.
“I do not engage in any other sport,” said Jebet.
Kamworor said he was in good form and expects to perform well.
“We have a strong team here.
“I am certain we will retain our individual and team titles in Kampala,” he said.
Head coach Juma Ndiwa said they would not allow athletes who had changed their nationality to ruin Kenya's party.
“We will not sit back and watch them take our medals,” he said.