Kenya is worried about the fitness and ability of her athletes to successfully defend the women’s 3,000m steeplechase crown at next month’s Beijing World Championships. More worried is head coach Julius Kirwa, who will be leading the Kenyan team to the premier track and field competition. With world champion Milcah Chemos out with back injury for the rest of the year, Kirwa must find a formidable replacement to help him win the gold medal in Beijing. “It is unfortunate Chemos will be missing out. But we have enough resources and talent in our reservoirs to execute the job well in Beijing. But they need to be groomed on how to help the country retain the gold,” said Kirwa. Chemos finally delivered a World Championships 3,000m Steeplechase title, albeit at the third attempt in Moscow 2013, after winning back-to-back bronze medals in Berlin 2009 and Daegu 2011. In Chemos’ absence, Kirwa will have to get fresh talent to take over.

“We have Virginia Nyambura, who is coming out very strongly in the Diamond League meeting. It is true she lacks the experience but that will make the championships even more unpredictable for anyone because she is new to the fold,” said Kirwa. Kenya also has Hyvin Kiyeng, Purity Kirui, former Commonwealth games bronze medallist Mercy Wanjiku Njoroge and Lydia Chepkirui to pick from. But the real chance of facing Olympic champion Gulnara Gulkina of Russia and Ethiopian Africa champion Hiwot Ayalew who are enjoying top form is like scaling the Mount Everest bare foot.

Chemos, who turned 29 in February, is still nursing her back disc problem, which has seen her miss out on all the competitions since September 2014.

“I will not be running in the Beijing World Championships. I will probably not run again this year. But I am doing everything possible to return to training and compete again. “I wanted to defend my title in Beijing, but I still have a long way to go. I am in and out of rehabilitation and the physiotherapists have advised me to take a complete rest and heal first,” said Chemos. In her absence, her understudy Nyambura will step in and Chemos believes she has what it takes to win gold in Beijing. Nyambura now targets to set a new Africa record in steeplechase. Nyambura, however, has to shave 15 seconds off her personal best time to be able to break Chemos’ Africa record of 9:07.14. The world record of 8:58.81 set in Beijing Olympic Games by Gulnara Galkina of Russia in 2008 is still way far for Nyambura. “You have to set a target and try to beat it in every competition. That is what I have just done. I am back in training and I will see how best I can get closest to the record,” she said.

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