Samuel Kitwara’s dream of putting on the national jersey is finally coming true.
After several unsuccessful attempts to make the national team, the police constable on Saturday triumphed in the New KCC national trials in 10,000m to bag the automatic ticket to the World Championships in Berlin, next moth.
Japan-based Gideon Ngatunyi, shock off his nagging ankle injury that kept him out of competition last season to finish second and clinch the second slot in a tough tactical race that was decided in the last 200m.
However, Moses Masai, a fourth finisher at last year’s Beijing Olympics and Micah Kogo, the Olympics bronze medallists were not as lucky.
Masai, whose younger sister Linet Masai clinched the women race, was a distant fourth after he was edged out by a strong sprint from Bernard Kiprop Kipyego while Kogo who set a new 10km record in 27:01 in Brunssum, Holland in March, developed painful scamps to bow out.
Head coach Julius Kirwa was a happy man, his best choice Kitwara secured the ticket having shown consistent form and fighting spirits abroad.
While Kitwara’s victory in The Hague, The Netherlands, at the City-Pier-City Half Marathon in April against World marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie was said to be a fluke, he showed his class and intention as he lapped his colleagues to win the men 10,000m race at Nyayo national Stadium timed at 27:44.46.
After a year’s performance, the Marakwet born Kitwara is keen to pick up from where legendary Paul Tergat left as he makes the dash for the gold in Berlin. Ngatunyi settled for second slot in 27:44.77 ahead of Bernard Kiprop Kipyego 27:44.80 while Masai took fourth sport in 27:44.88.
“It has been a struggle for me to get here. For two years, my efforts were not good enough. I thank my coach for keeping faith in me and encouraging me to go on,” said Kitwara. “However, winning the trials does not make one a great runner. I have yet to show my performance at the world championship.”
Kitwara’s win, his third in as many competitions he has competed in this season (he also won the Kenya Police championship in the shorter 5,000 alongside the win in The Hegue) was a big statement on his intentions this year.
He sprung to the national scene in late 2007 when he strung together five of the six wins in the local cross country circuit. However, he lacked experience and endurance tactic in the battle during the Olympic Games trials.
“It is my first time to represent the country. I tried last year, but I guess I was not strong enough. I know the pressure and challenges in Berlin will be great, but I relish the challenge. I have not raced against Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele, and my win over Gebrselassie was then. We will assess what the Ethiopians will provide when time comes,” he said.
Ngatunyi decried the low pace and said, Kenyans need to run faster if they are to catch the Ethiopians.
“The battle is won, but we focus on the war in Berlin. After my injury, I feel strong again and need to keep on training hard to see that I get what has been missing in my collection, a gold medal,” he said.
Head coach Kirwa pointed out that, only the two athletes Masai and Kipyego will be considered for the wild card this essentially locks out Kogo, World junior 5,000m silver medallist Mathew Kisorio, Leonard Komon, Barnabas Kosgei and Japan based and world bronze medallist in the 10,000m Martin Irungu Mathathi.
“I tried hard, but the pace was too much for me. I salute my colleagues who made it and hope, this time round we will win a gold medal,” said Mathathi.
Kisorio, a form four student in Kapsabet was timed at 27:58.97 in fifth slot edging out Komon 28:02.24 to sixth while Kosgei settled for seventh after taking 28:10.55.