Competition for the four available slots among the six athletes in the Kenya’s relay team to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kampala has risen a few decibels higher to fever pitch with head coach Juma Ndiwa delaying naming the final four.
Morale was high during early morning and evening training sessions yesterday at the team’s St Mark’s Teachers Training College in Kigari, Embu, buoyed by the return of 1,500 world champion Asbel Kiprop who had taken time off.
Ndiwa said he was still analysing the performance of Kiprop, Benard Kipkorir, Mark Bett, Margaret Nyairera, Beatrice Chepkemoi and Winfred Mbithe before announcing the two men and two women who will compete in the inaugural relays on Sunday at the Kololo Independence Grounds.
The relays will kick off the Kampala programme at 2pm on Sunday with the men’s 10-kilometre race bringing down the curtain at 4:55pm.
On Sunday, Kiprop was among a team of athletes who visited Baringo County to donate famine relief food to families affected by banditry attacks and was away from the camp for the better part of the week.
However, Ndiwa said all was well insisting that Kiprop had just left for a routine visit to his physiotherapist and for the charity mission, and that he was still training while away.
“He was attending a massage session and never missed his training. Kiprop is an international athlete and a professional who always travels with his training kit wherever he goes. He is committed and responsible. Even when he is away, he would find time to train. We are raring to go. Everyone is in peak performance. He doesn’t have anything to worry about,” said Ndiwa.
Rio Olympics 800 metres bronze medallist Nyairera said the team was keen to make a mark in their inaugural relays event at Kololo Independence Grounds.
“According to the way we have been training, I’m sure God will not let us down. Being the first relay event, we are ready for the challenge,” said the athlete who is also the world indoor 800m bronze medalist and a world junior champion over the distance at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
“Uganda and Ethiopia will be the main opponents. We don’t have any injury that can threaten our performance. We are confident of emerging as winners,” said Nyairera.
Ndiwa said they were waiting for the programme to know whether it is women or men team who will start the relay race.
“The rules on how we will run are going to be provided on that day. They have not yet communicated whether it is men or women will start,” he said.
Ndiwa, himself an 800 metres legend, said cross country runners were engaging in long runs while those in the relay were taking short runs of about two kilometres.