Kenya faces litmus test in London OlympicsBy JOHN KWOBA | Saturday, July 7 2012 at 13:29
Four years ago in Beijing, Kenyans were not so expectant of the national team performance at the Olympic Games However, the squad of 48 participants drawn from track and field, boxing, rowing, swimming and taekwondo clinched
14 medals — six gold, four silver and four bronze.
This was enough to see Kenya wound up in position 13 in overall standings The problem was that all the medals were from the track and marathon squads.
But that does not mean that the other disciplines did not have their best athletes.
In fact, in swimming Kenya's Jason Dunford stunned the world when he held the Olympic 100 metres butterfly record.
The then 21-year-old student of human physiology at Stanford University swam 51.14 seconds
to break America's Michael Phelps old mark of 51.25 that he had set at the Athens Games in 2004.
He was however not lucky to stake claim to the gold, which was eventually won by Phelps.
Such underpins the determination and hard work put in by the Kenyans in swimming, boxing, rowing and tae kwon do.
But again the jewel in the crown was in athletics where all the 14 medals came from.
This performance, the best in Kenya's measures, underscores the fact that out of Africa there is always something new, and faster.
The world had better accept that, in middle distance and endurance terms, Kenyans are likely to be faster than
anything they will be throwing out to them in London. As time ticks down to the London Games in
August many hope more the athletes will bring home more medals.
Kenyan athletes are acclaimed globally, such that a horde of elite foreign athletes have been training in Rift Valle
— the bed rock of Kenya’s athletics success. To start with, it was World 5,000m champion Mo Farah
and World junior 1,500m champion Stephanie Twell of Wales that arrived in Kenya last year.
The two were among other 30 United Kingdom athletes who came in to prepare for the World Championships in Daegu.
The results were evident as both won in their speciality in 2011.
Then came World marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe and she too wanted a share of the high altitude
to boost her endurance and oxygen consumption.
Now the man in town is Sudan’s 800m sensation Abubakar Kaki, the two time World Indoor Champion.
Kaki, who has for the last two years played second fiddle to world champion David Rudisha,
wants to get even with his rival at this year's Olympics. He is also using the training to prepare himself ahead
of the World Indoor Championships, set for March in Istanbul, Turkey.
"I came to Kenya to train on my speed and endurance. I will also be training in Switzerland,"
Kaki told journalists in Iten, a small town in the rift Valley.
Athletics Kenya (AK) however, is not against welcoming the opponents in their backyard, and remains optimistic,
Kenyan athletes still are a cut above the rest.
“We are confident of what we have. Kenya is the country to beat in long distance
and that will remain so for long,” said David Okeyo, AK secretary general.
To try and keep off the pretenders to the throne, Kenya has set up a budget of $4 million (340 million)
to prepare and send a team to this year’s Olympic Games in London.
But in essence, Kenya will be eying to secure compensation from the UK by having a training camp in Bristol City before
moving in to London for the games.
The National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) said the country’s athletes will depart
for Bristol City in on July 4 before moving in to the Olympics Village in London a fortnight later.
Kenya had earmarked 12 disciplines for qualification for the summer event.
The country is keen to add on the 48 that made the cut for Beijing Olympics.
But as things stand now, only four disciplines — track and field, swimming, boxing and weight lifting
have been cleared to compete in London.
Kenya was keen to have participants in women volleyball, taekwondo, archery, rowing, table tennis,
boxing, swimming, hockey alongside track and field.
Nock chairman Kipchoge Keino said he had high hopes the country will do better in London in the four disciplines.
“We had a small team in Beijing, but we still did well. We now have to improve on that by diversifying on the disciplines
we can take part in. It is also important to take youths who have quality and can challenge for the medals,” said Keino.
That is underpinned by the selection of World Junior 1,500m champion Faith Chepng’etich
and World Youth 800m bronze medallist Timothy Kitum to compete in London in their speciality.
Both are aged 18-year-old.
The government is aware of the budget and we are set to meet with Sports ministry
officials to discuss the preparations for the Olympics. "Our aim is to record a better performance than Beijing 2008
by giving all the support we can to the teams," Nock secretary general Francis K. Paul told journalists.
"Our target is to send more competitors and officials but after qualifiers are complete the number could end up
much less and the budget will be adjusted accordingly." he added.
But with the country at war in Somalia, it hard to get boxers to start training as majority are soldiers who have been deployed.
“The boxers did not turn up for the All Africa Games in Mozambique last year and did not take part in the Kings Cup in Pakistan,”
said Amateur Boxing Association of Kenya chairman John Kameta. Commonwealth Games bronze medallist in
bantamweight Nick Okoth, a member of the Kenya Army,is among those who have been sent to Somalia.
Past winners –
1964 800m Men Wilson Kiprugut 1:45.9 BRONZE
1968 800m Men Wilson Kiprugut 1:44.5 SILVER
1968 1500m Men Kipchoge Keino 3:34.9 GOLD
1968 5000m Men Kipchoge Keino 14:05.2 SILVER
1968 5000m Men Naftali Temu 14:06.4 BRONZE
1968 10000m Men Naftali Temu 29:27.4 GOLD
1968 3000m SC Men Amos Biwott 8:51.0 GOLD
1968 3000m SC Men Benjamin Kogo 8:51.6 SILVER
1968 4x400m Relay Men Charles Asati 2:59.6 SILVER
1968 4x400m Relay Men Naftali Bon 2:59.6 SILVER
1968 4x400m Relay Men Hezekiah Nyamau 2:59.6 SILVER
1968 4x400m Relay Men Daniel Rudisha 2:59.6 SILVER
1972 400m Men Julius Sang 44.92 BRONZE
1972 800m Men Mike Boit 1:46.0 BRONZE
1972 1500m Men Kipchoge Keino 3:36.8 SILVER
1972 3000m SC Men Kipchoge Keino 8:23.6 GOLD
1972 3000m SC Men Ben Jipcho 8:24.6 SILVER
1972 4x400m Relay Men Charles Asati 2:59.8 GOLD
1972 4x400m Relay Men Hezekiah Nyamau 2:59.8 GOLD
1972 4x400m Relay Men Robert Ouko 2:59.8 GOLD
1972 4x400m Relay Men Julius Sang 2:59.8 GOLD
1984 10000m Men Mike Musyoki 28:06.46 BRONZE
1984 3000m SC Men Julius Korir 8:11.80 GOLD
1988 800m Men Paul Ereng 1:43.45 GOLD
1988 1500m Men Peter Rono 3:35.96 GOLD
1988 5000m Men John Ngugi 13:11.70 GOLD
1988 10000m Men Kipkemboi Kimeli 27:25.16 BRONZE
1988 Marathon Men Douglas Wakiihuri 2:10:47 SILVER
1988 3000m SC Men Julius Kariuki 8:05.51 GOLD
1988 3000m SC Men Peter Koech 8:06.79 SILVER
1992 400m Men Samson Kitur 44.24 BRONZE
1992 800m Men William Tanui 1:43.66 GOLD
1992 800m Men Nixon Kiprotich 1:43.70 SILVER
1992 5000m Men Paul Bitok 13:12.71 SILVER
1992 10000m Men Richard Chelimo 27:47.72 SILVER
1992 3000m SC Men Matthew Birir 8:08.84 GOLD
1992 3000m SC Men Patrick Sang 8:09.55 SILVER
1992 3000m SC Men William Mutwol 8:10.74 BRONZE