Kenya’s fall, rise and then fall again in London

August 14th, 2012 - 10:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Nairobi, Aug 14 (IANS) Just as Kenya was beginning to celebrate its improved status in sports, the 2012 London Olympic Games dragged it back into the abyss. They could win only two gold medals out of a projected eight - by Ezekiel Kemboi in the 3,000m steeplechase and by David Rudisha in the 800m.

Kenya’s fortunes seemed on the downslide after their poor showing at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and the performance at the 2005 Athletics World Championships lent credence to it.

Each day, Ethiopian athletes humiliated Kenyans with monotonous regularity, particularly Kenenisa Bekele and women’s champion runner Tirunesh Dibaba comprehensively boxing the Kenyans out of the gold medals in the 5,000 and 10,000m races, reports Xinhua.

The question raised was: Has the Kenyan empire crumbled as a result of flouting the principles upon which it was built or has Ethiopia simply built a strong and better edifice?

However, Kenya’s strong showing at the Beijing Olympic Games and the 2011 Athletics World Championships in Daegu firmly placed it in the driving seat of athletics in Africa and the world.

“In attempting to explain Kenya’s poor performance, athletics officials used to blame poor preparations of athletes and outdated equipment,” athletics coach Stephen Mwaniki said on Monday.

By clinging to the poor preparation and poor equipment line, Mwaniki wondered what equipment in addition to the normal spikes, vest and light training gear an athlete needed to win a race.

“Athletics is not like cycling where the choice of a racing bicycle might mean the difference between winning and losing. Why did Kenya have to prepare well to get into the final but lack the preparation to win? There must be some other explanation.”

“Kenyans lost races to their opponents because of poor tactics. A close analysis of Kenyan runners revealed athletes did the donkey’s work of setting the pace for their opponents and allowed them to outsprint on the last kick.”

“As middle and long distance races somehow nowadays get reduced into sprint finishes, Kenyan runners had no sting in the finish.”

Mathew Birir, gold medal winner in the 3,000m steeplechase at the 1998 Atlanta Olympic Games, said a close analysis of Ethiopian runners reveals athletes who are trained to run a tactical race as a team but still aim at nothing less than the gold medal as individuals.

“Even where they are assured of a clean sweep of the medals on offer, each would go for the gold. Kenyans on their part would compete against an individual instead of going for the gold and by so doing they forgot that the other athletes other than their target also stood a chance to win the gold.”

Kenyan runners seemed to have perfected the final kick problem during the 2008 Berlin World Championships where Linet Masai applied it on the Ethiopian duo of Meselech Melkamu and Wude Ayalew in the 10,000m finals and Vivian Cheruiyot and Sylvia Jebiwott also turned tables on Mesert Defar in the 5,000m.

And now with the 2012 Games over, all fingers are being pointed at the management that has been accused of abandoning athletes in training camps as they scrambled for the $300 per diem out-of-station allowances in London.

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