WITH ALL eyes on Eritrean Zersenay Tadese and Kenyan Wilson Kiprop, Team Rwanda will be plotting behind the scenes to snatch a podium finish in the team rankings at today’s IAAF/AL Bank World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Rwanda’s quest for team glory will be spearheaded by last year’s Kigali half marathon winner Alexis Nizeyimana, alongside Félicien Muhitira, Hussein Habumugisha and Félix Ntirenganya.
Speaking to Saturday Sport before departing for Copenhagen on Thursday, Nizeyimana said: “We expect a tough challenge mainly from Kenyans, Eritreans, Ugandans and Ethiopians. However, we are tactically able to snatch one of the top slots. It has been tough training since December last year as we prepared for this competition, but I think as a team we are ready to give our best,” added Nizeyimana, who has a personal record of one hour, two minutes and twenty-one seconds.
Coach Innocent Rwabuhihi said Rwanda’s aim is to improve on the 2012 edition ranking in Kavarna, Bulgaria where they finished sixth in the world.
Robert Kajuga, who has been on the sidelines with an ankle injury since late last year, finished 12th after clocking one hour, two minutes and thirty three seconds at the 2012 edition.
No story on the World Half Marathon Championships would be complete without a mention of five-time winner Tadese.
The Eritrean is the most decorated athlete in the history of the championships, having won 12 medals, five of them gold.
However, the defending champion will be under threat from Kenyan Kiprop who interrupted his run of victories by beating him into second place four years ago in Nanning.
To date, that victory in China remains Kiprop’s greatest achievement in the sport, but he has gone on record as saying he is “very determined” to win the gold again in Copenhagen, and “confident” about his chances.
There will also be a pack of other contenders such as Tadese’s Eritrean colleague Nguse Amsolom, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Eritrean runner, Samuel Tsegaye.