Kenya seeking to mirror 2008 exploits
Posted Saturday, July 14 2012 at 07:51
Kenya will be bidding to once again better east African rivals Ethiopia with another dominant display on the track at the London Olympics.
The two traditional powerhouses of middle and long-distance running have enjoyed a spectacular rivalry in recent years, but it is the Kenyan team which is now firmly in the ascendancy.
Kenya finished third in Beijing in 2008 behind heavyweights USA and Russia, with six golds, four silver and four bronze for a medal tally of 14.
Ethiopia were in fifth after the Usain Bolt-led Jamaica, with four golds, one silver and two bronzes.
It was Kenya's best ever Olympic performance and featured golds for Pamela Jelimo and Wilfred Bungei in both 800m races.
The 1500m also went the way of Kenya, with Nancy Lagat and Asbel Kiprop claiming golds, while the now-deceased Samuel Wanjiru won the men's marathon and Brimin Kipruto brought home the seventh straight gold medal in the men's 3000m steeplechase for Kenya, a record stretching back to the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
The Ethiopian cause was driven by four outstanding performances by two athletes in their prime, Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba, who each claimed a 5000-10,000m double.
More tellingly, Bekele limping out of action at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu was indicative of a major groundswell towards Kenyan dominance, led by Vivian Cheruiyot, who claimed the 5000-10,000m double in Dibaba's absence.
The Kenyan running machine garnered a massive medal haul of 17 (seven gold, six silver and four bronze) to again finish third behind the Americans and Russians - not bad for a team that will enter just one field competitor in London.
But Ethiopia were down in ninth, their sole gold coming from Ibrahim Jeilan in the 10,000m with four bronzes claimed in other long-distance events.
This time around, the Kenyan squad promises another massive medal haul, with Cheruiyot joined by a host of defending world and Olympic champions, and 800m world record holder David Rudisha.
"I hope I am going to do wonders. I know both Dibaba (defending champion in both 5,000m and 10,000m) and Defar (5,000m bronze medallist) of Ethiopia will be there but I am ready to face them again," said Cheruiyot.
Jelimo's trip to London has been assured after the 800m specialist overcame three injury-blighted years following her success in Beijing.
"The last three years were so bad for me. Many people had ruled me out. Now I have won the ticket to defend my title in London. I have to believe in myself," said Jelimo.
The 22-year-old, who won the world indoors in Istanbul in March to announce her comeback after a long lay-off, has responded well after losing to the Ethiopian Diamond League 800m leader, Fantu Magiso in Rome in May.
"This year in London, we hope to win once again the men's 10,000m (last won by a Kenyan in the 1968 Mexico City Games by Naftali Temu)," said Athletics Kenya president Isaiah Kiplagat said.
"Our women have shown impressive progress in this event. Vivian Cheruiyot won the double at the Daegu worlds and we're expecting something as good at the Games."