Kenya may win seven gold medals at Rio games

Saturday August 6 2016

President Uhuru Kenyatta poses with Kenya's Rio Olympics team at State House on July 22, 2016. Because Beijing 2015 was the last global championship event before Rio, the results from there can be an accurate measure of expectations for Kenya. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

President Uhuru Kenyatta poses with Kenya's Rio Olympics team at State House on July 22, 2016. Because Beijing 2015 was the last global championship event before Rio, the results from there can be an accurate measure of expectations for Kenya. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By CHARLES OUKO
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Kenya is predicted to win at least seven gold medals in the Rio Olympics that started on Friday.

Most of them will come from track and field events which begin next Friday with the women’s 10,000 metres final.

The gold medal estimate predicted by athletics experts, including legendary Kipchoge Keino, is based on Team Kenya’s performance at the World Athletic championships in Beijing last year in which the country was top of the athletics table with 16 medals, seven of them gold.

The other medals were six silvers and three bronzes.

In a survey released on Monday, Goldman Sachs predicted that the world’s top two economies, the US and China, will win the most gold at the games and that Britain will pip Russia to the third spot.

The firm said the US will top the table with 45 golds, followed by China in second place with 36. Britain will get 23 golds and Russia 14, the survey said.

Goldman Sachs said beyond athletic performance, economic success enhances chances of Olympic glory "because a country is likely to produce world-class athletes in a world-class environment."

The seven Kenyan champions from the Beijing worlds are Vivian Cheruiyot (10000m women), 400 metres hurdler Nicholas Bett, Javelin thrower Julius Yego, woman steeplechaser Hyvin Kiyeng, David Rudisha (800m), Asbel Kiprop (1500m) and the seemingly ageless steeplechaser Ezekiel Kemboi.

The Beijing Worlds are about the best bench mark by which the global athletics world will be gauging Kenya’s Rio medals chances.

Because Beijing 2015 was the last global championship event before Rio, the results from there can be an accurate measure of expectations for Kenya.

In the the women’s 10,000 metres final in Brazil, Kenya will be represented by Alice Aprot, Betsy Saina and Vivian Cheruiyot.

TRACK RECORD
Kenya’s best bet in this race has to be Cheruiyot. A double medallist from the London 2012 Olympics, Vivian will once again be doubling up in both the 5000 metres and 10000 metres.

In London, Vivian won the 10000 metres bronze and silver in the 5000 metres. Nick named ‘‘pocket rocket’’ due to her small stature, the 28- year-old is anything but small in any other way beyond her physique.

Her decision to double rekindles memories of the great Kipchoge Keino, the last Kenyan athlete to double, with a medals result at the Munich ’72 Olympics.

Prior to Bett’s hurdles triumph last year in Beijing, no other Kenyan at either the Worlds or Olympics had ever won a medal of any shade in the hurdles event.

Ugandan John Akii-Bua was the last African to win an Olympic gold in this event at Munich ’72.

But a win for Bett will be something of a pleasant surprise because he has hardly raced competitively since his Beijing triumph.

He did not take part in the Kenya trials held in Eldoret last month but was given a direct ticket to Rio. His struggling form is attributed to off pitch personal matters.

If Vivian Cheruiyot is expected to bring home Kenya’s first ever Olympic women’s 10000 metres crown, then Hyving Kiyeng should likewise make history and win our first ever women’s steeplechase crown.

With World number two Ihab El-Sayed of Egypt excluded from Rio on account of a failed drugs test, 27-year-old Julius Yego is a serious contender to add the Olympic title to his World title.

His momentum to Rio, has been meticulous, and should he go one better from Beijing, he will become Africa’s first ever Olympic field champion athlete.

If any one were to place a sure bet on Team Kenya’s gold medals, they would almost certainly not go wrong with Rudisha, 27, Kiprop, 27, and the steeplechase trio of Kemboi, 35, Conseslus Kipruto, 21, and Brimin Kipruto, 30.

These group of five go to Rio with a fearsome track record under their belts.

Kemboi seeks a third steeplechase title and is a four-time world champion.

Rudisha seeks to become the first Kenyan ever to defend an Olympics crown. Kiprop seeks a second Olympic title, after his Beijing triumphs, first at the 2008 Olympics and then at the 2015 World Championships.

RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
Brimin was steeplechase champion at Beijing 2008 and silver medallist at the Athens 2004 Olympics.

Conseslus seeks to prove that he is Kemboi’s heir apparent. All three medals, a very distinct possibility.

If Kiprop is beaten it will be by 22-year-old sensation Ronald Kwemoi.

South Africa’s Caster Semenya vs Margaret Nyairera, 21, will surely be the story from Rio in the women’s track events.

Unbeaten since she returned to racing this year, Semenya is the runaway gold medal favourite in the 800m. Nyairera the best bet to halt her.

Kenya’s male long distance track athletes over both the 5000 metres and 10000 metres will still have to contend with the Mo Farah factor in Rio.

Kenya’s six runners in these two track events are Caleb Mwangangi, Isaiah Koech, Paul Tanui, Charles Yosei, Bedan Karoki and Geoffrey Kamworor.

Somalia-born Farah, 33, and now running for Great Britain, is the reigning double world and Olympic champion.

In the marathon, in Stanley Biwott, Wesley Korir and Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya has the pedigree to return with the title that Samuel Wanjiru won at the Beijing 2008 games.

In our team events, the ladies rugby 7s team should enjoy it while it lasts.

Men’s coach Benjamin Ayimba has been in an upbeat mood saying Kenya will win gold.

Kenya has had her moments on the IRB World Sevens series, but the tight 12 team Olympics rugby event is another platform altogether.

Top medal contenders are Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand. Next in the pecking order to upset the established order would be USA, Australia and Great Britain.

Rank outsider dark horses, would be Argentina and Kenya. Kenya are pooled with Japan, Great Britain and multiple world champions New Zealand.

BOXING BENCHMARK
Whereas Kenya will be represented in seven events, what is hardly indisputable is that come closing day, all of her medals will have come from track and field.

Other Kenyan disciplines in Rio are boxing, archery, swimming, judo and weightlifting.

The Rio games come exactly 60 years since Nyandiko Maiyoro made history as the first ever Kenyan finalist in an Olympiad.

At the 1956 Melbourne Games in Australia, Maiyoro, now 85, made the 5000m final, coming in seventh.

With the exception of boxing, every Kenyan medal so far has come from the track.

The three Kenyan boxers Peter Mungai, 30 (light fly), Benson Gicharu, 31 (bantam) and Rayton Okwirri, 30 (welterweight), will be sore pressed to match or even surpass the exploits of those who boxed at previous games for Kenya.

Kenya’s total Olympics medal haul stands at 86, with seven of them coming from six boxers. Robert Wangila won gold at the Seoul games in 1988.