Only three athletes - Vivian Cheruiyot, Sylvia Kibet and Geoffrey Mutai - are missing from Kenya’s World Cross Country Championships’ training camp in Kigari, Embu.
The team is preparing for the global championships to be held in Punta Umbria, Spain, on March 20.
However, there was a sigh of relief for the coaches when World Cross silver medallist Linet Masai, Vincent Chepkok and Paul Tanui reported at the weekend, bringing the number of the athletes in camp to 21.
But this does not in any way clear the dark cloud surrounding the axing of World 10-kilometre (road) record holder Leonard Patrick Komon from the Kenya team.
Japan-based Tanui, eighth in last year’s global championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, was promoted from the Kenya team to the Africa Cross Country Championships to replace Komon for the global contest.
The announcement of Komon’s axing, made by the team’s head of delegation and Athletics Kenya (AK) treasurer, Joseph Kinyua, stung the former World Cross silver medallist as he prepared to parade on the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sunday in an effort to break his own record at the World’s Best 10km race.
Komon (28 minutes and seven seconds) finished fourth in a race won by compatriot Sammy Kitwara in 27:34 ahead of Ethiopian duo of Dejen Gebremakel (27:44) and Lelisa Desisa (28:02).
Endorsed by AK secretary
Komon’s dismissal comes after he failed to get the clearance from AK to compete in the annual race in Puerto Rico. AK failed to persuade him to return home from San Juan, leaving the Kinyua with no choice but axe him at the weekend.
However, the decision by Komon to compete in Puerto Rico had earlier been endorsed by AK secretary general David Okeyo.
In an email communication between the athlete, his agent Marc Corstjens and AK, the programme for Komon was agreed upon a long time ago.
It included him running sparingly this season, having been allowed to compete in only five races with the World’s Best 10k, which has a winner’s prize of Sh2 million ($25,000) and Sh8 million ($100,000) for breaking the world record, being part of his schedule.
The World’ Best 10k race also has a Sh800,000 ($10,000) bonus for men running under 28 minutes and women under 31 minutes.
However, the move to sanction Komon to compete in Puerto Rico did not have the required ‘consultation’ among the AK authorities.
“It is certain we had not discussed the issue of Komon competing abroad after being selected in the team. But we will deal with the issue when it will be brought to us,” said AK Vice chairman Paul Mutwii.
Head coach David Leting, however, insisted that the withdrawal of Komon will not cause confusion and concern in the camp.
“He was one of the medal hopefuls, but we have enough athletes to challenge for the medals. There will be no problem in the camp,” said Leting.
Vivian Cheruiyot, who also flew out after clinching a ticket to Spain, did not defend her title in San Juan.
Kinyua said she was recalled while still in London on transit to Puerto Rico and was due to report to camp today. “She will not be reprimanded. She will report to camp as agreed and join the rest,” he said.