Kenya eye to rebound and dominate athletics in 2013Souce:Xinhua Publish By Thomas Whittle Updated 05/01/2013 1:57 am in World / 1 comment
by John Kwoba
NAIROBI, Jan. 4 — Athletics, Kenya’s golden goose in international sports, returned mixed results last season and the country will eye to rebound and dominate the track and field competition in 2013.
Three major events will confirm their intention and reassure the fans of the prowess and galore talent the country boost of – World Championships in Moscow, Russia in August, World Youth Championships in Donestk, Urkrain in July and the World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland in March.
To many, the country had poor results at the London Olympics, save for outstanding run by David Lekuta Rudisha in the 800m.
While the country harvested 14 medals in Beijing Olympics in 2008 – six gold, four silver and four bronze – it could only get two gold in London courtesy of Rudisha and Ezekiel Kemboi, the steeplechase supremo.
The dismal show in London still lingers in the minds of many and it will not certainly be business as usual as the focus shift on name saving in 2013, a season that promises more than just individual performance satisfaction.
The new season will help the country conquer its rivals especially at the World Cross Country, the world championships and the world youth championships.
To set the ball rolling will be the cross country season. Though several top names including World cross country senior women champion Vivian Cheruiyot have expressed their reservation and lack of interest to compete in the event in Poland, it certainly is one of the important races the country will be eying to wrap up in March.
Reason is Bydgoszcz has always been a special hunting ground of Kenya ever since the inaugural World Youth Championships in 1999 where Kenya won the overall title in the track and field event of the young runners under the 18 years category.
Fast track to 2008 and Kenya showed its dominance with another emphatic victory at the World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz. This time again it won the overall title.
Therefore it came as no surprise in 2010 when Kenya made history in Bydgoszcz becoming the first country ever to take all 8 titles (four team and four individual) in the World Cross Country Championships.
It meant that Bydgoszcz will long live in the annals of long distance running as one of the most dominant performances ever by any one nation at global level.
Inspired by this performance, Kenya’ s road racers took up the mantle of success and showed the same fighting spirit a year later at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, where only the United States and Jamaica edged out Kenya as it wound up third overall.
Ethiopia and Eritrea, so long the only opponents to trouble Kenya across the country and on the roads were very much squeezed off the podium.
Will Kenya be able to replicate this good performance on return to Bydgoszcz for the fourth time? Time will tell. However, what is certain is that the country’s athletes will have their best foot forward.
After Bydgoszcz, the next stage will be the inaugural African Youth Athletic Championships, which will be held in Warri, Nigeria from March 23-28. This event will be a precursor to the World Youth Championships in Ukraine.
“This is a new event being introduced in Africa. We have not been serving this group of athletes well depending only on the World events. But Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) has opted to introduce the event and the municipality of Warri will stage the debut championships and all the 54 African countries and regions are expected to take their teams,” said David Okeyo, the Athletics Kenya Secretary general, who is also the vice president of CAA.
From April 23-29, the focus will be on the Eastern Region Youth Championships in Khartoum, Sudan, an event that Kenya has dominated exchanging the reigns with rivals Ethiopia and Sudan.
Both competitions will have their target in the culmination to the World Youth Championships in Donetsk which will be held from July 10-14.
This will certainly affirm Kenya’s production line ability to cope with new challenge as it parades some of the virgin talent from the remote Rift valley and Eastern region of the country.
The National Bank of Kenya track and field season will be in its third round by the time Kenya takes its team to Warri, Nigeria. The national circuit is gaining popularity and many elite athletes have embraced it turning out in large numbers in events across the country.
The country has since entered into a special deal with Jamaica to have a sprints coach to help develop a Kenya team.
However, before the World Championships fever creeps in, the athletes will have the chance to earn money and fame with the return of the Samsung Diamond League starting in Doha, Qatar in May and ending in Brussels in September.
The Diamond league, a reserve for the elite runners, will have 14-legs in Asia, Europe and America and Kenyans athletes have done well before with the likes of Paul Kipsiele Koech, Milcah Chemos, Vivian Cheruiyot, David Rudisha, all having won the Diamond Trophy, which comes with 40,000 U.S. dollars to savor and a chance to gain automatic selection to the World Championships and Continental Cup competitions.
Individual races in the 14-series event also have their prize money and appearance fees paid out to the athletes to inspire them to compete. All this will be in focus to prepare the athletes for the World Championships in Moscow.
Kenya has since secured the service of Jamaican sprint coach to help rediscover the former glory of Kenyans short distance runners.
Though the results are not expected immediately, the decision by AK to try and resuscitate the discipline is clear indication; the country is serious in widening its medals scoop at the World championships and the Olympics.
Daegu World Championships remains Kenya’s best having clinched 17 medals, with Vivian Cheruiyot inscribing her name in the folklore by clinching two gold medals in the championships – 5,000 and 10,000m. Kenya claimed 7 gold, 6 silver and 4 bronze behind the United States and Jamaica.
Moscow will be the next platform that the country will seek to reaffirm its prowess in the sport. Having been jolted by Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba and Britain’ s Mo Farah at the London Olympics, how the country responds will be crucial in Russia.
Of importance will be the fact that the championships coming in September will be a crucial stage for some top Kenyan athletes as they pull in at their final destination in the famous black, red and green jersey that is the Kenyan kit.
Janeth Jepkosgei, having dominated the athletics scene since her arrival at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Alfred Kirwa, Mark Kiptoo are a just but a few whose career is on the cliff and Moscow will be their final bow out event.
But importantly, Moscow World Championships will provide the chance for Cheruiyot to get level with Dibaba, David Rudisha to firm his grip on the 800m title and for Pamela Jelimo to finally win a world title.
Upcoming Timothy Kitum, Faith Chepng’ etich and Mercy Cherono will all be eying to fit into the shoes of their mentors and take over the mantle from the aging Kenyan athletes.
With the track and field season in the sunset by September, focus will return to the road races with Chicago, Berlin and New York road races being the target as Kenyans seek to dominate the World Marathon Majors.
Certainly 2013 season promises to see the blossoming of very many talent and the emergence of new runners that will give the world a new imagination.
The stage is set and only time will tell if Kenyan athletes will be able to sustain their runs from the blocks in January to the finishing line in November.