MARRAKECH, Logistical challenges returned to haunt the Kenyan runners on the track as the African Athletics championships began on Sunday at the Grande Stade after a tedious 32-hour flight from Glasgow to Marrakech.
The sensible decision to fly the Kenyan track and field team from the Scottish capital for their next assignment in the leisurely Moroccan touristic spot came back to worry Athletics Kenya officials who were already weighted by kitting concerns.
Kenyan runners squirmed in the qualifying rounds as Josephat Bett impressively pushed himself to snatch bronze in a ‘heavy’ men’s 10 000 final won by Eritrea’s Anguse Amlosom.
“That was a difficult heavy race .It was as if there were something holding me from the waist downwards. On a good day this was a race we could have won but I struggled to get to the finish line. I am exhausted,” Bett who lost the gold in Glasgow to Ugandan Moses Kipsiro just on the line, sought to explain his slowed finish of 28:11.61- Kenya’s first medal at the championship.
Yet again he lost the superior medal to Moroccan Mustapha Elaziz who eased past him for silver in the home stretch.
Amlosom won the race in 28:11.07 with the Moroccan timing 28:11.36.
The Long haul
After a seven-hour flight from Glasgow the athletes had to wait up for similar period at the Dubai International Airport for their connecting flight for Casablanca.
Nine hours after landing in the Moroccan capital the athletes were still stuck up at the airport and had to endure another grueling wait to catch their 23-minute flight to Marrakech!
They had the option of taking the three-hour free bus to Marrakech provided by the Local organizing committee to all the teams and games officials arriving in Casablanca but there was no team or Athletics Kenya official at hand who could have made the quick decision to save the athletes the agonizing wait.
The team was selected way back in June and with the confirmed travel for Glasgow mid-July farsighted officials would have booked the connecting flights then instead of waiting for the last minute rush when they could barely secure connections.
“I have never had such travel. I can’t really blame the long travel for this performance but it certainly contributed,” said Solomon Buoga after his fifth place finish in 47.41 seconds in his qualifying heat in the men’s 400m.
The athletes arrived at the team hotel, Tachfine, early morning August 9, just hours ahead of the championship start on Sunday.
“We didn’t even have time to shake it off, all we did yesterday evening was some stretches and we were off to the track. I struggled. I have run disappointingly slow times that I didn’t imagine I could run in a continental event. The travel plan was not good,” another athlete visibly upset offered after the 100m-dash early Sunday as he hoped for a better showing from the long distance runners later in the day.How wrong!
“The worst is that we didn’t even get the right kits after all that,” said another runner who was forced to run in shorts instead of the preferred sprinters bikers.
Bronze start in men’s 10 000m
There was clear intent by the three Kenyans early on in the race as they positioned themselves with the leading back that broke off at the halfway mark with Kipsiro opting to skip the championships after his Commonwealth double.
Elaziz, Peter Kirui, the world championships finalist and Amsalom had each comfortably paced the field through until the last three laps to go.
The Moroccan then led a break off of five athletes as Kenyan Charles Cheruiyot and Kirui fell off the pace remaining about 50m behind. Bett kept the pressure following Amlosom, a finalist in Moscow and at the London Olympics who sped off at the bell for the easy win as the expected Ethiopian challenge failed.
The top ranked Ethiopian was Adugna Takele in fourth with Imane Merga, the bronze winner at the worlds in Daegu a disappointing fifth.
“To run 27 in Glasgow and come here and run 28 was tough considering all the fatigue. It is not what we had hoped for from this race but at least we finished,”said Kirui.
Major retired Michael Rotich one of the officials accompanying the team here acknowledged that the long haul had greatly affected the athletes.
“The arrangement was not good and certainly it has affected the team. We are trying to work out a better travel plan for the return to avoid a repeat of the same and ensure each of the two batches travel with officials,”he said.
Kenyans dash runs flopped as they were eliminated in quick succession. The depleted women’s entry benefited Safina Mukoswa who qualified for the semifinals of the women’s 100m despite her fourth place timing (12.08) in heat four and Millicent Ndoro also fourth in heat two in 12.21 seconds.
Mukoswa finished seventh (12.26) in the semifinal won by Ivorian favorite Muriel Ahoure silver winner in the 100m and 200m in Moscow last year timed the fastest of the day of 11.19 seconds.
Double Commonwealth champion Blessing Okagbare timed 11.20 in the other semi where Ndoro also ranked seventh in 12.09, with an alluring final expected against the inform West Africans.
In the men’s Tony Chirchir finished seventh of the seven starters in 10.95 second behind South African Simon Magakwe who topped heat five in 10.38 seconds.
Stephen Barasa also dropped to a disappointing sixth in heat seven in 10.66 as yet another South African Akani Simbine topped the sheets in 10.35. Walter Moenga was disqualified for a false start from the third heat.
Mark Mutai eased to the semi finals of the men’s 400m fourth in 46.93 a race topped by Onkabets Nkobolo of Bostwana in 46.78.
Another Botswanan Pako Seribe crossed the line first ahead of Bernard Mucheru(46.58), second from heat two in 46.12.
“I hope we shall be able to shake off the heavy feeling by tomorrow,” said Mutai. Kenyan will not field teams in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays set for Monday.
Jumpers through to final, Hammer women struggle
Tera Langat and Elijah Kimitei both qualified for the men’s long jump finals. Langat managed fourth with his third attempt of 7.74m behind favourite South African Khotso Mokoena.
Kimitei also just sealed his final berth in group A with his fourth round 7.43m leap behind the winner South Africa’s Zarck Visser(7.92m).
The hammer throw was quite disappointing for the two Kenyans Lucy Omondi who ranked eighth after her second round attempt of 51.44m as national champion Linda Oseso struggled to break the 50 mark her best of the night standing at 48.06m which locked her out of the final.
French based Laetitia Bambara of Burkina Faso earned her first career gold with her final throw of 65.44 dethroning Senegalese Amy Sene who settled for silver in 64.46.
On Monday Kenyans wll line up in the men’s 800m qualifying rounds, the 400m- men’s semi-finals and women’s qualifying rounds, the 400m hurdles qualifiers and the Long jump final with newly crowned club games champion Mercy Cherono leading teammates Janet Kisa and Margaret Wangare against an Ethiopian charged led by Genzebe Dibaba, the world indoor winner(3000m).
1.Nguse Amlosom ERI 28:11.07
2.Mustapha Elaziz MAR 28:11.36
3.Josephat Bett KEN 28:11.61
4.Adugna Tekele ETH 28:12.27
5.Imane Merga ETH 28:17.75
6. Peter Kirui KEN 28:34.48
7.Olivier Irabaruta BDI 28:39.26
8.Charles Cheruiyot KEN 28:47.08
Shot put men’s final
1.Orazio Cremona RSA 19.84
2.Jaco Engelbrecht RSA 18.87
3.Frank Owaka CGO 18.74
Hammer Throw final
1. Laetitia Bambara BUR 65.44
2. Amy sene SEN 64.46
3.Sara Ben Saad TUN 60.97
400m -Heat 1
1.Wayde Van Niekerk RSA 46.78
2.Gyles Afoumba CGO 46.80
3.Kenenisa Hailu Bali ETH 46.82
400m -Heat 2
1.Onkabets Nkobolo BOT 46.78
2.Noah Akwu NGR 46.88
3.haji Beker ETH 46.90
4.Mark Mutai KEN 46.93
1.Pako Seribe BOT 46.12
2.Boniface Mucheru KEN 46.58
3.Mohamed Khwaja LBA 46.98
100m semi final 1
1. Muriel Ahoure CIV 11.19
2. Pon Traore BUR 11.53
3.Lawreta Ozoh NGR 11.58
100m women semi final 2
1. Blessing Okagabare NGR 11.20
2.Marie Jose Ta Lou CIV 11.25
3.Gloria Asumnu NGR 11.44