World Relays gives Kenyan Athletes ‘Golden Shine’

This past weekend marked the inaugural World Relays under the auspices of IAAF hosted in the Caribbean island of Bahamas ( the natives called Bahamians, more like Bohemian Rhapsody…I digress).

World Relays Bahamas 2014 – image courtesy of www.iaaf.org

The 2-day event had some really good action for any sports and athletics enthusiasts. Stealing some of the attention for the more popular football (soccer in other quarters), was a huge gamble but for those few moments the Championships produced some sparkle. The c’ships had 10 events billed as the Golden Baton which included the more common and widely accepted

  • 4 x 100m ( both men and women)
  • 4 x 400m 
But also other races including;
  • 4 x 200m  or 2 lap event
  • 4 x 800m or 8-lap event
  • 4 x 1500m or 15-lap event.
As expected some athletics powerhouses such as the US and Jamaica sent strong teams especially in the short(er) sprints. Kenya too sent very strong teams in what were expected to be its specialties in the middle races. After what might have been a fiasco in national team selection, the team redeemed itself winning 3 out of its targeted 4 Gold medals and each of those in World Record times. There was also special mention of the 4 x 400m Kenyan men’s team which featured in the Final B ending up in the tail end of the proceedings. 
A few lessons too could be taken by the Kenyans from these Games;
a) Preparations – The national selection method employed by Athletics Kenya was not the most scientific and suited for this purpose. This led to an almost disjointed effort in preparing the team for the c’ships. In future, it would not hurt to make proper preparations for national selection and onward camp for participants.
b) Tactics– while we may not have been with the coaches and managers, some of the tactics employed  cost the team valuable points and wins. For example, the 4 x 800m women’s race decision to run a fairly inexperienced Busienei in the first leg saw Kenya lose her position to lead and ultimately play catch up to the US team. 
c) More Country representation – being the inaugural c’ships not every country was able to send representatives and some sent some more junior and inexperienced runners. Beijing in 2015, you can be sure it will not be a walk-over even for Kenya even in the middle races that we seem to have such a stronghold. Ethiopia, Algeria, Morocco and even Uganda will want to prove a point or two. We saw what is happening in the marathons and 10K races in other championships. And it is not just the Africans breathing down the necks of Kenyans, Russia, Romania and other European countries always fancy challenging Kenyan athletes.
Kenya’s 4 x 1500m Women’s team image courtesy of www.iaaf.org
d) Track and Field Clubs – while Kenya has traditionally had no problem in producing talent especially for the middle and long distances, our performances in the shorter races of 400m, 200m and 100m have been dismal. Save for the occasional suprise in the 400m, the others don’t seem to feature in our calendar. 
One way of encouraging this is forming running/sprint clubs that can be situated in 2-3 cities in the country. Rigorous training and exposure will see us in good stead. Investing in the necessary infrastructure such as tartan running tracks, gyms, sports scientists and nutritionists is integral too. The US has Santa Monica Track Club(which produced among others sprint legend Carl Lewis), Jamaica has the MVP Track and Field Club
(with women sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser in its stable). Why can’t Kenya invest in one too?
e) Reward System – though this has been ongoing with the gold medal winners in major games such as Olympics and Commonwealth getting national honours, more can be done to earn our athletes their worth. The mileage enjoyed by their participation and winning is more than the fancy budgets and trips that tourism officials seek to justify for their activities. There has been talk of an Athletics Hall of Fame by Athletics Kenya but this ought to be a public-private partnership by all parties concerned.
For now let’s enjoy the shine of winning 3 Gold medals and records to boot. In 2015, I don’t see why Kenya should not bag 4 Gold medals and Bronze or two in the shorter races. Optimistic perhaps? 

Quick recap:
Kenya won Gold in the 4 x 800m (men), 4 x 1500m (men and women) and Silver in 4 x 800m (women).
In Related News:
When Safaricom Limited announced that it had secured the naming rights of Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi,  its current CEO Bob Collymore intimated that one of the areas of focus would be investing in the shorter races. This was echoing earlier sentiments made in 2012 when he was awarding the Olympic heroes. True to their word, the company sponsored the National Relay series which almost ended in confusion after Athletics Kenya couldn’t agree on a proper formula for the competition. In future, national associations should have proper blueprints for events such as this. Having secured funding and sponsorship such as Safaricom’s makes it easier to consult experts and host more successful events. 
For future Relay events, Athletics Kenya can do better by letting the respective branches come up with teams which can then compete at the series of trials in Nairobi and any other city deemed suitable. This will not only attract new talent but also expose potential athletes to specialisations beyond the individual races they usually do.
As for Safaricom Limited, your investment may start bearing fruit sooner than expected…

Athletics Kenya distances itself from Olympic Report

After London Olympics’ fiasco ( not entirely suprising from our quarters), Athletics Kenya President Mr. Isaiah Kiplagat sought to lay out the blame on other issues. Again no suprises there. Once the report is out, we shall analyse it and give our honest opinion(s) – hope they count for something.
But back to Mr Isaiah Kiplagat, as he answered questions from journalists fresh from London ( where he attended the Games as an IAAF Board member and guest). He said that the Government has been making these reports from Olympic Games since 1976 and none has been acted upon. He also said that Kenyan sports should look into other disciplines to seek medals from in future Games.
Well, Mr. President, we won’t talk on behalf of the Government for not working on the reports since some of the officials involved in the fiasco are part of the blame. We had a similar situation in the All-Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique and nothing was acted upon. It was only going to be a repeat at a larger scale.
Other sporting disciplines bringing Kenya gold, first accept the blame for a dismal show in athletics which you head. Secondly explain to us the whole joke at the Prefontaine trials which AK heavily endorsed and Kenya didn’t manage gold in any of the long races. Third, you might want to suggest a departure date since it’s about time you called it a day for the athletics top job.

Enjoy your weekend though!

Running for Black Gold – Book Review

When Africa’s best will be competing at the Olympics showpiece in a week’s time, they shall be looking for inspiration and hoping to be the same pedigree that has gone before them. This pedigree has been captured in a new book titled – Running for Black Gold – by Kevin Lillis ( and Photography by Mark Shearman).

This 170- pager seeks to record the history of African athletes at the Olympic Games as organised by IOC and the World Athletics Championships (held under IAAF). The author worked in many African countries and thus been able to document the achievements of African athletes. This is from the 1960 when Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila won Africa her first Gold medal to the last Olympic Games in Beijing and the World Athletics championships in Daegu, South Korea.

” After Abebe Bikila’s Olympic marathon gold medals in world record times in both Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964), African athletes began to assume greater prominence. At the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964, Africa claimed two medals in addition to Bikila’s marathon gold. Wilson Kiprugut( Kenya) won a bronze at 800 metres – improving that to silver in Mexico City (1968).”  



Starting off with his own trials of running a pre-qualification marathon event ( in the preface), the writer goes on to give details of the achievements of athletes from the major nations of  Eastern Africa’s Ethiopia and Kenya who have won Africa most of her medals.

” Fortified, I halted pitifully to the stadium entrance and then, again pure hubris, raised my sprint around the remaining 385 yards to the finish where the 13 runners who had preceded me to the tape gave the politest, humorous ripple of applause, the late great Naftali amongst them, still clutching that stopwatch, which recorded me, last man in, as 66 minutes behind the 2.14.00 of the winner, Philip Ndoo….I felt like Pheidippides himself, but Philip’s time, at altitude, was faster than that of Bikila’s 1960 world record gold medal in Rome.”

Though bereft of actual athletes profiles and life beyond the running field, the book captures the performances of each of Africa’s best performers track record.

Table 6.6 show African Female ‘Black Gold; Hall of Fame where the top 3 female athletes are ‘unsuprisingly’ Ethiopian; below is a sketched sample of the table;

Olympics
IAAF
World
World
Records
G
S
B
G
S
B
Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH)
2
0
1
4
0
0
1
Meseret Defar (ETH)
1
0
1
1
1
2
2
Derartu Tulu (ETH)
2
0
1
1
1
0

Here’s another sample of the writing:

” The narrative has remarked many times with a sense of wonder and admiration at the brilliance of the cast of African runners, their grace, uninhibited speed, beauty, and unbounded, unbridled joie de vivre and joie de courir – kimbia bwana kimbia!”

The book does well to enumerate the achievements of various athletes both male and female who have put Africa on the map. With great images meant to celebrate the track kings and queens, the reader will be taken back over the 5 decades of mixed bag of success and missed opportunities.The medal tallies and various records have been clearly outlined in tables.The same goes for the world records which have been set over the same distances at both the Olympics and World championships. 

The book though is not your usual long prose reading leaving out the finer details of the athletes featured. It would have definitely taken longer to capture such information. It also does not also try to solve the mystery of why athletes from some countries and regions are more successful than others – but does query and make that note in the Introduction.

But for you who’s looking to learn what African athletes have achieved, this is a worthy book. For the athletics and sports writers of our generation, the facts and figures are important to note.The foreword is aptly done by Dr. Mike Boit, himself a former Kenyan athlete and various notable sports editors of their time are also acknowledged for the assistance they offered. They include Don Beet formerly with East African Standard and Drum Magazine; John Steward, formerly an expatriate teacher in Kisii and Peter Moll formerly sports editor at the Daily Nation and Africa Sports.

 It will be released soon to coincide with the start of the Olympic Games in London. Here’s the link on Amazon. For Kenyan readers, you can contact local publishers , East African Educational Publishers for a copy.

Zuku to Screen African Athletics Championships – 27th June – 1st July

Wananchi Group through its Zuku flagship – Zuku Sports more specifically – will screen the continental Athletics championships which start today 27th June to 1st July 2012. This is in line of improving its offering for sports enthusiasts and subscribers to its triple play (bandwidth, Tv and voice) services.

Hannelie Bekker as quoted said ” securing the exclusive rights to broadcast such an important athletics event in East Africa is a huge honor. It is a big year for sport, African athletes are doing well, and we’re delighted to showcase and celebrate that.”
Zuku has been offering quite the variety in its sports menu having already secured screening rights for the Diamond League which is one of the premiere athletics sports events on the IAAF circuit. The African Athletics championships comes hot on the heels of Olympic qualifiers from the various athletics powerhouses in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa among others.

No more excuses for lack of sporting action!

ZUKU to air 2012 Samsung IAAF Diamond League Athletics series…

Diamond League logocourtesy of IAAF

As part of improving its sports menu, Zuku has confirmed that it has live broadcast rights for the 2012 Diamond  League sponsored by Samsung ( now in its 4th year of sponsoring the League). With the Diamond Series having a total of 15 Grand Prix events which started in Doha on 11th May traversing various American, European and Asian cities with the final event being held in Brussels on 7th September 2012.
These Grand Prix events will be used by many athletes to warm up for the upcoming Olympic Games in London from July to August. It will also serve as great breeding grounds for upcoming talents for which Kenyan and African athletes have continually dominated especially in the middle to long distance races. The same will go for individual rivalries being settled by the cut of the tape. Further enticement from the organisers is breaking of world records in the individual disciplines for the favoured athletes.

ZUKU logocourtesy of www.zuku.com

Entertainment for you the discerning athletics fans and watching audience of ZUKU programmes will be happy to note that the likes of Usain Bolt, David Rudisha, Vivian Cheruiyot, Pamela Jelimo have already run in the first 2 events and shall surely be part of some if not a fair share of the GPs.
As Hannelie Bekker -MD Wananchi Programming ( ZUKU) aptly put it, “ZUKU is proud to be broadcasting the 2012 Samsung Diamond League and proud of Kenyan athletes. They are some of Africa’s brightest stars…”

The remaining Grand Prix events in the Diamond League series to be screened by ZUKU are as follows;

  1. 31st May : Rome – Italy ( 2000 – 2200 hours Local East Africa time)
  2. 2nd June: Eugene – USA ( 1130 – 1330hrs)
  3. 7th June: Oslo – Norway ( 2000 – 2200hrs)
  4. 9th June: New York – USA ( 1500 – 1700hrs)
  5. 6th July: Paris – France ( 2000 – 2200hrs)
  6. 13th July: London – England ( 1900 – 2100hrs)
  7. 14th July: London – England ( 1500 – 1700hrs)
  8. 20th July: Monaco – Monaco ( 2000 – 2200hrs)
  9. 17th August: Stockholm – Sweden ( 2000 – 2200hrs)
  10. 23rd August: Lausanne – Switzerland ( 2000 – 2200hrs)
  11. 26th August: Birmingham – England (1500 – 1700hrs)
  12. 30th August: Zurich – Switzerland (2000 – 2200hrs)
  13. 7th September: Brussels – Belgium (2000 – 2200hrs)

African Cross Country championships – Kenya to top again?

Thanks to the IAAF’s plan to switch the World Cross-country championships to biennial events the African athletics circuit will have its 3rd African Cross-Country championships. Confederation of African Athletics is all the more thankful for hosting one more event on its calendar.

Kenya – a previous host and major powerhouse in these forms of races will once again seek to battle it out with leading African challengers in the form of Ethiopia, and more recently Algeria, Eritrea and Morocco.
Last year the Kenyan teams in all races for men and women, both junior and senior saw the teams literally sweep all medals on offer. From individual titles of Gold, Silver and Bronze to team honours; even after sending what was 2nd-best since last year was a World Cross-Country championships year. The exception though was the failure of Ethiopia sending any of its athletes as the tightly-managed sport by the country’s powers sought to shield their athletes from over-exposure.

This left IAAF President Lamine Diack complaining that the event has been turned into an East African affair – thanks to Kenya’s dominance – turning away athletes from West Africa ( only Nigeria was represented from the West African countries. Mr. Diack himself is Senegalese so he might be having a point right there! )

36 countries have confirmed participation exceeding last year’s lowly figure of 16. This will indeed ensure there is enough competition for top honours, men and women both at senior and junior levels. Some countries might want to use the meet as a warm-up to national selection for their teams to participate in the London Olympic Games later this year.

Will Kenya repeat her sterling performance? Will the rest of the African states come forth and push our athletes to the limit? Can Mr. Diack’s myth be broken?
March 18th at Cape Town- South Africa will tell it all! All the best to our Kenyan representatives, make Kenya proud once again!

Pamela Jelimo & Hellen Obiri – We Salute you ladies!

As most sporting action had been turned to other sporting events, this weekend the World Athletics Indoor championships made sure that Kenyan sporting prowess was once again promoting the country’s richness on the world stage.
Having had a past poor record in the event, most Kenyan journos had also not put much interest into the going-ons and this blogger too had overlooked what would be a memorable Sunday for the country. Since Kenya’s first gold in 1989 in Budapest, thanks to one Paul Ereng ( who also won the 1991 gold medal in the 800m), our showing has been rather dismal with a few silver sprinkled among the other 4 gold the country has won in this indoor sports event.

From left, Kenyan starlets – Pamela Jelimo & Helen Obiriimage courtesy of www.nation.co.ke

Thus our hopes had been somewhat tempered not just by the country’s poor showing but also by the fact that the athletes representing the country in the various races have not been having an easy time in their outdoor events. This was best exemplified by Pamela Jelimo who had dropped from competition in the past two seasons due to injury and also low self-esteem after storming onto the scene in 2008 and winning everything on offer that year.
But as they say, in sport you’re only as good as your last event, two ladies in Pamela Jelimo and Hellen Obiri had their scripts to write and lead the country’s slaught for places on the podium. Where their male counter-parts faltered, they picked themselves up and ensured a place for Kenya in the 2012 championships.
Big KUDOS for your wins!
So Athletics Kenya, can we manage a bigger squad for more honours for the indoor event? With the droves of young talent, our representation should be as all-rounded as it can be. A causory look at some of those events meant we would have been placed 2nd overall …food for though in 2014, Sopot, Poland…

IAAF World Athlete of the Year …Vivian Cheruiyot surely deserved IT!

Over the weekend, the IAAF accorded the world’s athletes a chance to wine and dine with some of the best in the sport and also honoured the finest athletes for the 2010-11 season at a gala dinner in the high-status island of Monaco. Kenya had a reason to watch this more carefully as two of its best athletes this season were among finalists in a selection for the top honours of World Athlete of the Year – Male & Female. But no it was not going to be …A local daily had even splashed the story in a 2-page feature only to quickly apologise to its readers for the anomaly. Sally Pearson was named as the World Athlete of the Year- Female ( the Male one was always going to one of the Jamaicans after they wowed the world at the Athletics championships in Daegu taking the 100m, 200m & crowning it with the 4x100m relay in world record time).

So that we don’t seem like we’re just saying this to run our mouths & trumpet our nation’s exploits, let’s look at the facts and achievements here to show the difference between Vivian Cheruiyot and Sally Pearson;
Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya):

Vivian Cheruiyot



2010:
Gold – Africa Athletics  championship (5000m)- Nairobi
Gold – Commonwealth Games( 5000m)-  New Delhi, India
Gold – Continental Cup ( 5000m) – Split, Croatia
Silver – World Indoor  championships ( 3000m) – Doha, Qatar

2011:        
Gold – World Cross-Country championships ( Senior Women) – Punta Umbria, Spain
NB: Helped Senior Women win overall title too. 
2 Gold – World Athletics championships ( 5000m & 10000m) – Daegu, South Korea
NB: She retained the 5000m which she won the 2009.


Sally Pearson ( Australia):
2010:
Gold: Commonwealth Games (100m hurdles) – New Delhi, India

2011:

Sally Pearson 

Gold: World Athletics championships ( 100m hurdles) – Daegu, South Korea
NB: Worthy mentions, broke National & Oceania record to 12.48 secs


While the IAAF used the ‘excuse; that Sally won 10 of 11 competitions she entered, Vivian on the hand did not lose any race she was entered, even national trials which are usually a killer if you ask any Kenyan athlete. So that doesn’t fly with us.( No offence to Sally Pearson’s person, but the facts are just that FACTS!)

Maybe the IAAF powers-that-be know something we don’t but for us, Vivian Cheruiyot remains the World Athlete of the Year and not the Performance of the Year b******t you awarded to this sterling lady. Maybe they had other thoughts of trying to appeal to a wider world audience especially for the people down under. or maybe Kenyans just threaten changing athletics’ world order, wonder what would happen if an African sprinter upset the form book…

Consolation:
One John Velzian – a well-tested hand in athletics in Kenya who has helped map out consecutive routes of the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon as well as the 2007 World Cross Country championship track among others in country and the region; who also doubles up as a youth coach and training expert. He has seen the growth and development of athletics since the late 1950s to the current times. He was awarded the Coaching Lifetime Achievement Award …( guilt conscience IAAF or what?).
Check out this article from the Sports Illustrated archives on this ‘unappreciated’ athletics legend in Kenya here 

2011 World Athlete of the Year Award – IAAF nominates 3 Kenyans

IAAF announced the nominees for the 2011 World Athlete of the Year Awards both men and women. Kenya got its 3 names with last year’s winner David Rudisha and Patrick Makau nominated for the men’s award while Vivian Cheruiyot was nominated for the ladies version.

Image courtesy of www.iaaf.org

Going by the exploits on the track (and field where applicable), Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot is heads and shoulders above most of the nominees, sample this;

Vivian Cheruiyot in Daegu 2011www.iaaf.org

In 2010, she won the African championships in 5000m held in Nairobi and also won the gold in the Commonwealth Games held in New Delhi in October. She competed in the Diamond League being part of the winnings that same season. She crowned the year by winning the 5km race in Bolzano, Italy known as the BOClassic  popularly known as the Corsa Internazionale di San Silvestro.
Come 2011, she started her year by leading Kenya’s senior women’s cross-country team to collecting individual and team titles. The big one though was the World Championships held in Daegu where she opted to do both the 5000m and 10,000m easily collecting gold in both events; a first from any Kenyan both male or female.
Our other two nominees for finalists would be Valeria Adams -shot-putter and Sally Pearson -100m women’s hurdler.
As for the men, our bet is on Usain Bolt taking the male category. After missing out the better part of last year through injury, he was the best bet for double gold in 100 & 200m but a disqualification meant he ended up with the 200m but came back to anchor the Jamaican 4x100m men to end the World Championships on a high ( while breaking the world-record at it!).
The other 2 nominees would be fellow Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake and David Rudisha.
According to www.iaaf.org; an e-mail poll is ongoing to close on 23rd October, after which 3 finalists in both male and female categories will be selected and announced by the IAAF. The winners will be announced from these during the 2011 World Athletics Gala on 12th November.

Patrick Makau rips Berlin & Marathon World Record too

After making his intent known last year at the Berlin Marathon, Patrick Makau came back yesterday and obliterated the field which included more fancied Haile Gebreselassie , smashing the world record in the process by a whole 21 seconds( finishing at 2hr 03 min 38secs).


We applaud his exploits and this shows the pedigree that Kenya has on the longest athletic event. Being one of the events on the World Marathon Majors (WMM), it will be even better if one of the Kenyans were to emulate last year’s winner the late Samuel Wanjiru – fitting tribute to this great runner whose career was cut short earlier this year.
The current ranking for the WMM has Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai leading the pack with 55 points amassed from his win at Boston Marathon and 2nd place in last year’s Berlin Marathon ( and also led Kenya at the IAAF World Cross-Country championships and won the Bogota Half-Marathon). There are 6 other Kenyans in the top 10 but the title for WMM Marathoner of the Year is clearly between Mutai and Makau.

NOTES:
While we applauded the winning of the race by the Kenyans in Berlin, it has become the norm for media-houses and print media to start shouting the prize money that the individuals shall collect. It is all good an informative but let’s not shine too much spotlight on such trappings. We all know what happened with the Samuel Wanjiru. These sport personalities now become the focus of unwanted attention and fraudsters to boot.

Haile Gebreselassie’s loss also shows the toll the road races usually have on many an athlete. It will be imperative for the authorities at Athletics Kenya to manage our talents to ensure that if we’re to have track and road specialists; each sticks to their specialisation. Road-running is known to wreck havoc on the knees and ankles. Ask Paul Tergat, Charles Kamathi and now Haile Gebreselassie.

All the same, let’s celebrate the win one more time!