Kenya’s team to this weekend’s IAAF World Indoor Championships arrives in the Turkish capital of Istanbul on Wednesday, confident of chalking up Kenya’s best performance ever.
Team manager Barnabas Korir on Tuesday said he was sure the team of nine would rake in more medals than the country has ever won before indoors.
The biggest focus, as expected, will be on 800 metres Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo who is making an active comeback after a long spell out.
Grown in importance
“The team of nine is the biggest that Kenya has ever entered in the World Indoor Championships which have grown in importance and many of the top athletes take them as seriously as the outdoor World Championships,” Korir said shortly before departure.
“All the athletes are capable of winning medals.”
The men’s team has the 800m pair of US-based Commonwealth Games champion Boaz Lalang and World Junior medallist Timothy Kitum while outdoor world silver medallist Silas Kiplagat will team up with greenhorn Bethwel Birgen in the 1,500m with Africa 5,000m champion Edwin Soi joining forces with 2006 Commonwealth Games 5,000m champion Augustine Choge.
The women’s team has three athletes, led by Jelimo, with World 5,000m silver medallist Sylvia Kibet and 1,500m finalist at last year’s Daegu World Championships, Hellen Obiri, both entered in the 3,000m.
The 22-year-old Jelimo, whose fledging career has been hampered by a series of injuries, will be competing in only her second indoor race since her return to track in February.
Jelimo ran the second fastest time of one minute, 59.10 seconds in her first-ever indoor outing at the Lievin Indoor Meeting in France last month, and she believes she can better her time in Istanbul.
“When you are in a good shape, there is no point in not running at a major event like the world indoors. As an athlete, the biggest motivation is to run in a race and win. Running 1:55 or 1:56 is what I’m looking forward to do,” she said.
Korir added that the world indoor championships were an important step in Jelimo’s bid to defend her Olympic title. “She is prepared both mentally and physically. She has the potential of winning a medal if she makes the finals in Istanbul,” said Korir.
“The event will also form part of her rehabilitation and conditioning programme for the defence of the Olympic title in London in August.”
Korir added that many of the world’s top athletes will be in Istanbul as part of their preparation for the Olympic Games in London in July and August.
“Great Britain’s Mo Farah, USA’s Bernard Lagat, Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar and Mohammed Aman...all the top athletes are travelling to Istanbul, showing that the World Indoor Championships are no longer a training championship but serious competition.