Lessons for team Kenya ahead of Rio 2016

Aug 14, 2021
  • Mo Farah races to win the 5 000m men's race.

Pundits have been debating the real story behind Kenyan's dismal show at the London 2012 Olympics.

Just what really happened to Kenya?

That’s been the question posed by most whenever I say where I am from here in London.

I am more familiar with the assertion, ‘You Kenyans are great runners!’

Yes we not only run but break records even when there are no ‘pacers’ like the 1:40.91 stylish World Record feat achieved by David Rudisha, one of Kenya’s two gold medals after Ezekiel Kemboi’s maintained tradition of winning the steeplechase.

Surprisingly, people are more concerned by the gold medals Kenyan runners missed and that’s why the question has been ringing in my ears from the first day athletics competition began in London.

The days of riding on raw talent are long gone. It is all about how you nurture and advance it.

These are lessons we must embrace as we seek to make a rebound and salvage Kenyas' dented Olympics history.

The women’s marathon was widely tipped to go Kenya’s way after all the country’s elite runners conquered all possible major city marathon titles in the run up to London.

But alas, the fickle weather played havoc and the ‘cool and wet conditions’ got the best of Mary Keitany, Priscah Jepleting and Edna Kiplagat, and they sadly missed what was billed 'Kenya's gold on books.'

Back on track, fears of injuries within team Kenya came to fore as Joyce Chepkurui withdrew from the women’s 10 000m race.

Worse still there was no reprieve for a battered Kenyan team in the men’s race either.

Wilson Kiprop also fell off the pace, injured, as the squad which was described as ‘Kenya’s best assembled 10k team in recent times’ played their all too familiar pacing role.

At least the men's 5 000m achieved bronze medal.

When the pre-Olympic picks failed to contest for medals with the favourite Asbel Kiprop jogging to the finish line, the alarm bells were deafening…this is a race Kenyans had dominated and even raced to world leads a few weeks to the games.

So how did they lose the plot on the biggest yet more prestigious stage and when it mattered most?

From fitness concerns to failing to keep up with high-level competition, team Kenya was clearly struggling even against underdogs.

Yes there could have been some organisation gaffes by the team’s management prior to and during the games that may have affected the team’s psychological preparations and slowly punctured team morale.

Physically, technically the runners struggled.

Most of their races were lost in the last 50m stretches. There was no question on their endurance levels boosted by their high altitude training but their finishing was pitiable.

They burnt out, at the decisive stage of the race, lost fighting spirit and exhibited dampened motivation.

That is why Kenya was not on the victory parade of the women’s 800m…

"My body could not react," was a phrase that was largely used by the runners as the excuse for failure after the races.

Kenya went ahead and registered another second rate show in the cherished men’s marathon’s and lost the title to an unfamiliar rival from Uganda.

Kenya's elite squads is comprised of professional runners and the question of eating the wrong foods should feature least in the menu listing reasons for poor show.

Some of these runners were burnt out, probably a case of too many races in the Diamond league.

There is also the hard question as whether is it time to review and revisit our coaching techniques.

Unlike most of the runners who have gone more scientific with sporadic high altitude, sea level and strength training, traditional long runs and fartlek workouts form the base of our training.

But are our coaches readied for this? Don’t they need specific drills on this?

There is also the big role that the Government plays. It is not only boastingly providing chunks of money for the Olympics qualification and eventual participation. It is should be a continuous process.

The Olympics left a positive effect on the British who are now looking to create a lasting Olympic legacy.

This means investing in sports, training facilities, diversified sports disciplines, having effective sporting policies and talent tapping not ad-hoc funding of the Olympic teams only.

For instance the British set aside 60million(Ksh7.8 billion) per year for training athletes prior to the games and already for Rio 2016 Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the sports teams would continue to receive 40million(Ksh.5.2b) and an extra 80(Ksh10.4b) from the national lottery.

Four years later, sports men and women are still waiting for setting up of the national sports lottery as stipulated in the yet to be enacted Sports Bill.

Why this Bill is stack with bureaucrats and lawmakers no one can really explain.

But with the comical ambition of hosting the 2024 Olympic games, Shouldn't we have this Bill in place before then?

 

Evelyn Watta in London

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