Rudisha: Kenya rejoices

2012-08-11 19:15

After a dismal performance, the new 800m world record gave countrymen a reason to smile

When David Rudisha broke the 800m world record at the London Olympics, there was a sigh of relief among Kenyans, at last they had some reason to smile about the Games.

Apart from Rudisha’s record and the 3 000m steeplechase gold won by Ezekiel Kemboi, little seemed to be amusing Kenyans about London 2012.

Overall, their performance has been disappointing and the government, the National Olympics Committee of Kenya and Athletics Kenya must explain what went wrong.

The dismal performance, by a country once regarded as the best Olympic exponents on the continent, has led to growing demand for a complete overhaul of the local Olympics body and athletics management.

Further, there is a growing fear that Kenya will soon lose its dominance in the middle and long distance races because of either poor tactics or mismanagement of teams that represent the county.

Kenya went into the London Olympics with high hopes that they would surpass their performance in Beijing four years ago where Team Kenya scooped six gold, four silver and four bronze medals.

The coaches had promised at least 10 gold medals, judging by the fitness levels of the athletes.

But the pre-Games tension between the National Olympic Committee of Kenya and Athletics Kenya threw Kenya’s campaign into disarray.

Many will wonder just how Vivian Cheruiyot, the double world champion (5 000m and 10 000m) faded so badly in the 10 000m final and indeed why London Marathon champion Mary Keitany failed to get a medal in the marathon.

Questions arise from the women’s steeplechase debacle, the fact that Hellen Obiri was the only Kenyan in the 1 500m semifinals and how the country failed to break its 44-year jinx in the men’s 10 000m.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga took a special trip to London to encourage the athletes and Rudisha later said: “Raila played a role in inspiring me to go
for the record.”

Odinga told the athletes: “Kenyans are thirsting for success, they have high hopes for you. So far they feel let down by your performance.”

In Nairobi, there are already increasingly loud calls for a probe into the performance of the entire team.

Sports Minister Paul Otuoma says government will do a complete investigation of the performance and take action to avoid any further slips.

“We are not satisfied with the performance of our athletes. We will have to do an audit and get to know who is to blame for this and take action.”

Athletics Kenya secretary-general David Okeyo says there must be a change of tactics.

“I do believe we came here confident we were the best in all races.

“Well we are learning our lesson now and we have to invest in modern tactics, including the races we have dominated like the steeplechase,” he said.

Paul Tergat, who has won silver twice in the 10 000m, says the way the national teams are handled has to change.

Former Olympics 5 000m champion John Ngugi sees a shift of dominance in the middle and long distance races.

Kenya may still end up being the best-placed African nation at the Olympics, but they will feel the pressure after the Games back in Nairobi.

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