In this post I take a look at Kenya’s representatives in the middle and long distance events (3000m s/c-10000m). In the steeple chase Kenya’s men’s team go into the Olympics with the challenge of continuing a gold medal winning streak dating all the way back to the 1968 Mexico City games. In fact Kenya have never won a gold at the olympics without its men’s steeplechase team coming up trumps. The 3 men who will likely have the task of continuing this tradition are themselves no slackers. Consider the fastest man at this event this year, Paul Kipsiele Koech didn’t make the cut. There is current world athletics champion Ezekiel Kemboi. He is accompanied in the team by defending olympic champion, Brimin Kipruto, and relative new comer Abel Mutai. If one could say that it would take something extraordinary to stop these three completing a sweep, then something quite extraordinary has. In the past few days it seems that Kemboi, has gotten himself arrested and charged with assault in a stabbing incident in Eldoret town. So far he claims to be the victim in what may have been a set up. Subject to the high court or Athletics Kenya’s decision, his participation in the Olympics might not be so certain. Even so, Kenya will still look the favourites to secure gold. The women’s steeplechase team on the other hand looks much more less troubled. Its star athlete, Milcah Chemos being the fastest in the world this year and a former Diamond League winner. Despite her considerable consistency, in the discipline she adopted about 4 years ago, she has yet to come good in a major championship final. In the last world championships, she and her Kenyan compatriots simply had no answer for the Russian contingent’s front running. Perhaps with more experience, she can finally land gold. Her compatriots, Lydia Rotich and Mercy Njoroge, despite living in her shadow for the bulk of the part few years, are by no means slouches at the steeplechase. All have positive results at Diamond League and World Championship level and, as this blogger reckons, ideally suited to the sort of team tactics Kenya will employ to guarantee the gold comes home to Kenya. On to the 5000m, despite continually producing athletes who are more than capable elite runners, Olympic gold (and major titles in general) have generally eluded Kenya’s men in this discipline recently. The last big win this blogger can remember being Eli ud Kipchoge becoming world champion in 2003. This has largely been in part to the presence of two truly legendary Ethiopian track stars, Haile Gebresellassie and Kenenisa Bekele. The three Kenyans set to try break this jinx are Isaiah Kiplangat, Edwin Soi and Thomas Longosiwa, Soi and Longosiwa have both tasted defeat at the olympics to one of these legends and though it has proved elusive so far, I hope that this time round they find a way to get gold in what will be one of the most star studded races at this olympics. The women’s prospects are about as bright as they have ever been with the rise and rise of current world champion Vivian Cheruiyot. Together with Linet Masai, who’s loss of track form means she misses out on this olympics, have combined to win gold at 5000m and 10000m at the last 2 athletics world championships. A strong contender for her first ever olympic gold she represents an athlete who only lately develop the so called ‘big game mentality’ having run a few major events prior to her break out year in 2009 without medaling. She will be joined by US based Sally Kipyego, a silver medallist at world championship level. The two of them will also run the 10000 metres event. The final member of the 5k team is Viola Kibiwott. Kenya’s first ever gold medal in an Olympics came in the mens 10000m race in Mexico 1968. No Kenyan has won gold in the event since then. This time round Kenya sends the 2010 African Champion, Wilson Kiprop, Beijing 4th place finisher Moses Masai, and Brian Karoki. In qualifying for the right to represent Kenya in London, Kiprop set a world leading time and in winning the african title he did beat a strong Ethiopian contingent. Can he however land for Kenya a medal that has eluded greats such as Kipchoge Keino, and Paul Tergat? Moses Masai, and Brian Karoki have plenty of exposure on the word circuit, with Masai particularly having quite a bit of success on the cross country circuit. Can they come good on the olympic stage? This blogger hopes so. In the women’s event, previously mentioned Vivian Cheruiyot and Sally Kipyego will be joined by Joyce Chepkurui.
Over the weekend Athletics Kenya held its trials for the upcoming London 2012 olympics. Given Kenya’s massive over-reliance on middle and long distance track events for olympics success, this pretty much amounted to Kenya’s olympic trials. Several other teams, ranging from taekwondo to tabletennis to women’s volleyball, tried and failed to get into the olympics team events. So at the end of the day Kenya has a grand total of 5 competitors looking to try win olympic gold by means other than running fast. Away from the doom and gloom, this blogger reckons that Kenya’s current crop of track stars is about as strong as any that has ever been sent out to an olympic games. They will be looking to match Kenya’s most successful olympics on the track, Beijing, where athletes won all of Kenya’s record 6 gold medals. They will also be doing so without the aid of 3 of the 6 gold medallists. This post will focus on the shorter events on the track (4×400-1500). We start with the 4×400 metre relay. Kenya will be fielding a team consisting of: David Rudisha, Mark Mutai, Anderson Mureta and Vincent Kosgei. In this event Kenya has had at least 2 Olympic silver medals over the years, the first coming in 1968 in Mexico City, where incidentaly a certain Daniel Rudisha (father of current 800m world record holder David) contested. The biggest story around this year’s lot is the much anticipated but still highly unlikely contest between David Rudisha and Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt. Though in truth Kenya does not have the sprint pedigree of some of the other more illustrious nations, this squad should not be denied at the very least the status of dark horses. At least 2 of the 4 were part of Kenya’s success in the commonwealth games and with all th drama that can happen in the relay…I’ll let you put two and two together. On to the next event: the 800 metres. Kenya goes into the London olympics defending both the men’s and women’s titles, thanks to the efforts of Wilfred Bungei and Pamela Jelimo. Bungei will not be able to defend his title, having faded from the spotlight, but Kenya’s eight for the men’s gold should be in safe hands with world record holder David Rudisha, heading a very young and competitive trio. He’ll be joined by Job Kinyor and Timothy Kitum, both products of Kenya’s schools athletics competitions, who are really just stepping onto the senior circuit this year. Having seen off such battle hardened veterans as multiple world championship medallist Alfred Kirwa Yego, just to get into the team, these young men should be more than capable of supporting Rudisha when push comes to shove on the track. In the women’s race, Pamela Jelimo will be hoping to recall her suprise emergence in the 2008 olympics, with a successful title defence following a suprise return to form. Having all but vanished from elite running over the past year or so, she came out and won the world indoor 800m title in style. Then she went and backed it up with a number of barnstorming runs on the Diamond League circuit, to see her re-established as one of the favourites for gold. Winnie Chebet and former world champion Janeth Jepkosgei will also be looking to get into the medal bracket of what will be a rather competitive field. Moving on to the 1500 metres event, one would be suprised how bare Kenya’s gold medal cabinet is given the convinous flow, especially on the mens side, of world class talent in this distance. Once again Kenya will be defending both the men’s and women’s titles in London. In the men’s team defending champion Asbel Kiprop was actually beaten by both his colleagues, Silas Kiplagat and Nixon Chepseba at the national trials. Such is the evenness of competition in this particular group. In the women’s team, the absence of defending olympic champion Nancy Jelagat, leaves a rather large vacuum for a fairly young group of athletes to fill. Of the three Hellen Obiri is the most accomplished, having won the 1500m indoor title, earlier in the year. Faith Chepngetich, has multiple accolades at age group levels, but this will be her first go at the senior olympics. The third member of the team, Eunice Sum, certainly has talent but has yet to taste outright victory against the standard of competition Kenya will face to keep the gold medal at home. In the next post I’ll be looking at the athletes representing Kenya in the long distances and the marathon.
Starting tomorrow, is the IAAF World Indoor Athletics Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. Ordinarily Kenya doesn’t send a particularly strong contingent for indoor games, what with their normally being other events in the calendar being considered bigger priorities (see the London 2012 Olympics this time round for example). However, this time round Athletics Kenya have given a slot to one of Kenya’s 6 gold medallists from the last Olympics in Beijing. Pamela Jelimo will be part of Kenya’s contingent of 6? at this year’s indoor event. Since becoming Kenya’s first ever woman olympic gold medallist, things have not good well for Pamela. A number of injuries and coaching changes meant that not many see her as a favourite to defend her crown. Nonetheless, it seems her first sub 2:00 time in long while is proof enough for the honchos at Athletics Kenya to give her a spot in the Istanbul team. Best of luck to her and the rest of our team.
2008 looks to e a ig year for Kenyan sportsmen and women all over the world and although our beloved Harambee Stars will be missing out on the premier event on the African Continent, The Africa Cup of Nations, there action on the domestic season will hopefully give the die hard fans who still attend these matches reason enough that there is enough talent on the local scene to change that. The rugby and cricket teams on the other hand will have quite a bit on their own plates with both looking for success which for, while for rugby will be unprecedented, will have been long overdue for the cricket team.
First up will be Th Intercontinental cup in cricket which see the best Non-test teams face each other in a league from whence the best two teams face of in a final in a neutral venue to decide which one of them is the best at First Class cricket. The current tournament which started way back in June currently has Kenya on top of the table before there two matches in January against UAE and Namibia, Kenya will need to cash in on these winnable matches before they head of to face more adept opposition in the form Of the Dutch and the Scots. Outside of that if things work out well Kenya will also face Test nations South Africa in two One day matches, and the possibility of hosting Zimbabwe for a full blown tour including a number of First Class matches and One Day internationals. Also in th pipeline is a possible forur nation tournament involving immediate rivals in the Cricket world rankings Ireland, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
Rugby returns in a big way in February when the Rugby sevens tournament returns in early February and with Kenya having made such a strong statement in the first two legs in Dubai and George making the main up quarter finals on both occasions and winning the plate in George knocking over such traditional rugby powerhouses such as England on the way, the rugby team will be looking to build on this platform and finishing well in the top ten, maybe even the top five, who knows ? Sky is the limit.
However the biggest event on the 2008 Kenyan sports calendar is undoubtedly the Olympics in Beijing where Kenya’s athletics will be wanting to extend their revival at the recent World Athletics World Championships in Osaka with another huge medal haul. Also looking to get in amongst the medal winners will be the boxers and maybe if things go really positively there might be one or two Kenyan swimmers lining up at the finals of one or two strokes.
On the Domestic front there will be the KFF Premier league which is looking to run uninterrupted for the second successive season in a few years and will be available to view all over the continent on Supersprt following a multimillion shilling 4 year television deal. Also on the agenda will be the usual rugby sevens circuit peaking in mid year with the Safari Sevens and if nothing goes worong for the first time Kenya will be witnessing the best cricketing talent on offer playing each other in a proposed national league.