It was a blend of youth and experience as Athletics Kenya picked the team for Gold Coast Commonwealth Games on Saturday at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
The trials presented an excellent staged for some of the country’s fast-rising youngsters to make their statement as some seasoned and hotly favoured runners dropped by the way side.
Even with some key athletes skipping the trials for various reasons, Kenya still picked a strong team that is capable of topping the athletics medal standing for the third consecutive time at the “Club” Games.
However, AK will have to explore ways of making their championships attractive through good marketing and planning so as to attract crowds and sponsorship.
Olympic and World 3,000m steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto and World 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri made it to the team through wild cards, giving Kenya high hopes of scooping gold at Gold Coast in these races.
Kipruto will team up with Africa 3,000m steeplechase bronze medallist Abraham Kibiwott and World Junior 3,000m steeplechase champion Amos Kirui as they seek to uphold Kenya’s stranglehold in the steeplechase event.
Obiri, the 2016 Rio Olympic 5,000m silver medallist, joins Africa 5,000m champion Margaret Chelimo and fast-rising Africa Youth 1,500m silver medallist Eva Cherono.
Kenya won both the men’s 3,000m steeplechase and women’s 5,000m titles at the 2014 Glasgow Games through Jonathan Muia and Mercy Cherono respectively. Muia has scaled up to 10,000m where he has already earned selection while Cherono is on maternity break.
Races featuring some of the fast-rising youngsters thrilled fans during the trials where big names Paul Tanui, the Olympic 10,000m silver medallist, Olympic 400m hurdles silver medallist Boniface Mucheru, Africa 10,000m champion Alice Aprot and 2016 Diamond League 800m Series winner Ferguson Rotich fell by the wayside.
Edward Zakayo, who thrilled the packed Kasarani arena with his silver medal exploits in 3,000m at the World Under-18 Championships last year, was doing his thing again, this time around in men’s 5,000m. Zakayo is an athlete to watch out for in many years to come.
The 2016 World Junior 10,000m champion Rogers Kwemoi and 2015 World Under-18 2,000m steeplechase silver medallist Sandra Chebet, seemed to have embraced the senior ranks in style alongside the ever glamorous World Junior 3,000m steeplechase champion Cellphine Chespol, who is also the world junior record holder.
Zakayo will team up with the 2010 World Junior 5,000m champion David Bett and Nicholas Kipkorir.
Kwemoi will partner with Muia and Josphat Bett. They face the Herculean task of trying to end Uganda’s dominance in the 10,000m. A Ugandan has won the last three editions of the “Club” Games. “We have a strong team following this great show and it’s possible to end the drought. We shall need to tighten on our speed in the last lap,” said Kwemoi.
Kenyan women are undefeated in 10,000m, having conquered since Scots Yvonne Murray’s victory at the 1994 Victoria, Canada Games. They have gone to win the next five editions.
That is why Chebet, Stacy Ndiwa and Beatrice Mutai have a battle at hand to uphold the legacy in the 25-lap race.
YEGO'S WORK CUT OUT
The participation of Kenya’s mile race pair of Elijah Manangoi and training partner Timothy Cheruiyot, who claimed gold and silver at the World Championships in London last year, heightens the country’s expectations at Gold Coast.
It’s equally good to see the return of the 2016 World junior 1,500m champion Kumari Taki to form to join Manangoi and Cheruiyot in the 1,500m battle.
The 2015 World 400m hurdles champion Nicholas Bett, who failed to defend his title in London last year, seems to have hit form the right time. Bett easily won the trials, beating his brother Harun Koech and Willy Mbevi to make the team.
Commonwealth javelin champion Julius Yego will need to improve if he is to retain his title after his throw of 73.43.