There will be little rest for brave Kenyan athletes who arrived home from the just concluded World Championships in Doha as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics beckon in nine months.
Conseslus Kipruto (3,000m steeplechase) and Hellen Obiri (5,000m), the only athletes to retain their respective titles in Doha, said they will take a short break before starting preparations for the Tokyo Summer Games.
Beatrice Chepkoech (3,000m steeplechase), Ruth Chepng’etich (marathon) and Timothy Cheruiyot (1,500m) claimed their maiden world crowns. They will also be up and running in no time to prepare for the Olympics.
The athletes spoke on Monday at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport upon arrival from Doha.
At hand to receive the team was Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed, who had arrived earlier from Doha. Family and friends were also at airport to welcome them amid song and dance.
Mohammed paid glowing tribute to the athletes for their tireless effort, discipline and dedication that enabled Kenya finish second once again behind powerhouse United States in the standings with 11 medals; five gold, two silver and four bronze medals.
"It's humbling that some of the athletes competed with serious injuries but still delivered medals for Kenya," said Mohammed, singling out Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Chepng'etich.
"She (Faith) had a nasty leg injury, but battled to the end to win silver for the country. She could have beaten Sifan Hassan easily if not for the injury.”
Conseslus downplayed fears that Kenya’s dominance in steeplechase is threatened. He said he will pray for good health ahead of his title defence in Tokyo.
“The fact that I came back from an injury to retain my World title is clear manifestation that our dominance over the race shall remain so long as I am fit and I’m in that race,” said Conseslus.
“If they failed to beat me at my lowest them they will never at my best.”
The athlete said he had worked on his speed in the last 200m in case of any eventuality. “I had calculated my steps even though we went down to the wire. I always believe in myself,” he said.
Obiri, who finished fourth on her third appearance over 10,000m race before going on to retain her World 5,000m title, said she will attempt the 10,000m race in Tokyo.
“I have two world titles and an Olympic silver in 5,000m. There is nothing more I want from 5,000m and that is why I want to move to 10,000m,” said Obiri. She said there is a possibility of taking a break after Tokyo Olympics to have her second child.
Chepkoech said she would employ the same strategy of gun-to-tape performance in any championship race where opponents are equally in good shape.
“It felt sweet and great to win the world title after the 2017 London mishap…I am now inspired to go for the Olympic crown,” she said.
Cheruiyot said he cannot wait to add an Olympic title to his metric mile world title while Ruth said it will be a great honour to once again represent the country if picked in Team Kenya for the Tokyo games.
“When I set the third fastest time in history in Dubai in January, the weather was almost similar to Doha and that is why I performed well. Tokyo will have similar conditions and it would be nice to represent the country,” said Ruth.
Amos Kipruto, who stunned many by winning bronze in his World marathon debut, is also hoping to make the Tokyo team.
Team captain and 2015 World Javelin champion, Julius Yego, who reached the final hailed his charges.
Yego said the performance can get better with good preparations and diversification to sprints and field events.
"What we lack are good training facilities," said Yego, adding that it's disheartening to have dominated for the last nine years, yet there is no athlete who is ready to fit in his spikes.
Yego called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to personally intervene and have good facilities availed for sportsmen and women.
"We have had people over the years from the government talking about how they are committed to providing facilities, but that has only been meant for the media and public relations. We need to get serious," said Yego, adding that Kenya was a sleeping giant in sprints and field events.
"It's embarrassing to have only two sprinters and two athletes in field events in Doha yet we have potential that is yet to be tapped."