Athletics’ best swap notes

2012-12-16 10:00

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While Kenya has dominated middle- and long-distance athletics, Jamaica has continued to rule the roost on shorter races.

Now, the two countries have initiated an exchange programme aimed at learning from what each country does best.

In the partnership, Kenya will send coaches to Jamaica and also invite the country’s budding long-distance runners to train in East Africa while Jamaica will second a sprint coach to Kenya.

Athletics Kenya chairperson Isaiah Kiplagat says the new plan is set to roll out in January, and will help nurture and develop talent in field events and sprints.

“We will be signing with Jamaica on this area because we want to start an exchange programme with them.”

This comes only two months after Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association president Dr Warren Blake first spoke publicly of such a deal being in the pipeline.

Blake revealed that he had held discussions with Kiplagat during the London Olympic Games in August and an agreement, in principle, had already been reached between the two bodies.

“I had a long discussion with Kiplagat about a mutual assistance programme on the possibility of Kenyan coaches coming to Jamaica to help with our middle- and long-distance programme, and our coaches going to Kenya to see how they operate and how they train their athletes, and also the question of exchange of athletes between the two countries,” said Blake.

“It’s a work in progress and we have exchanged letters since I have come back home to Jamaica.”

If the deal materialises, it will help the two countries to possibly grow their medal haul at major events, while at the same time heightening competition.

Kenya has long struggled to produce top sprinters. In Africa, sprinters from Nigeria and Ghana have dominated, though it was Frankie Fredericks of Namibia who was a true star.

The best Kenya has done in sprints was at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 when Samson Kitur won silver in the 400m. Charles Gitonga was the 400m gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games in 1994, while Joseph Gikonyo emerged as the African champion in the 100m and 200m in 1991. The 4x400m relay team won silver in the 1993 World Championships.

At last year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi, the Kenyan team comprising Anderson Mureta, Julius Kirwa, Vincent Mumo, Vincent Kosgei and Mark Mutai managed to beat Jamaica, Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago to win gold in the relay.

Kiplagat says this proves that, with better coaching, Kenya can produce a record-breaking performance on the world stage.

“That is why we want to partner with Jamaica to match or even challenge them and the US in the sprints in years to come.”

“Jamaica also wants to challenge us in races like the 3?000m steeplechase, 10?000m and 5?000m. We are ready to help them. This will make competitions like the Olympics and World Championships even more exciting,” adds Kiplagat.

But Kenya will have to invest in facilities that can help build sprinting talent.

In Kenya, there are only two tartan tracks suitable for races. Schools and colleges do not have tracks.

Their athletics training camps are more tailor-made for long-distance training.

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