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Kenya athletics team returns home with
11 golds from Africa championships   

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s athletics team recently returned home after dominating the Africa Athletics Championships in Asaba, Nigeria, which ended under a cloud of poor organization.

Despite delays in connecting to Asaba from Lagos and arriving just hours before the start of the competition, Kenya braved all other challenges to claim bragging rights as they took home titles to increase their gold medal tally to 11, two more than their closest rivals South Africa and Nigeria.

“We promised to deliver medals and the team has just done that. With a small squad of 63 athletes, getting the 19 medals is no mean feat,” said head coach Stephen Mwaniki on Monday.

Kenyan medal winners delivered their victories in an impressive fashion especially in the women’s steeplechase where freshly-minted world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, clearly in the rarest of forms, led a medal sweep for Kenya.

The 27-year-old dominated the race en route to an 8:59.88 run, near the top of the short list of fastest un-paced performances in history. Celliphine Chespol was a distant second nearly 10 seconds back, clocking a time of 9:09.61, with Fancy Cherono taking home the bronze.

“After the world record in Monaco and now the African title, this will open many doors for me,” said Chepkoech.

Indeed behind the first door is a spot on Team Africa for next month’s IAAF Continental Cup, which will be staged in Ostrava, the Czech Republic on Sept. 18-19. Other teams will come from Europe, America and Asia. Next came the men’s 5000m where it was Edward Zakayo, the 16-year-old who emerged prominently after winning the world junior title over the distance last month. Third at the bell behind Yemane Haileselassie of Eritrea and Ethiopian Getaneh Molla, Zakayo bolted off the final turn to finish unchallenged, crossing the line with his tongue wagging and arms spread wide with a time of 13:48.58.

Molla was second in 13:49.06 with Haileselassie third in 13:49.58 to capture one of Eritrea’s two medals at these championships. “I used the strategy to run with my competitors and maintain the pace, which I did, and then to pull away,” Zakayo said.

Now what is next on the teenager’s agenda? “I want to win the world championship in Doha in 2019. But I must work even harder first.”

Kenya also scooped gold in the men’s 1500m. The race was a tactical affair largely driven by Kenyan aces Elijah Manangoi, the world champion, and his training partner Timothy Cheruiyot, this year’s world leader who has put together an unbeaten season on the IAAF Diamond League circuit.

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