Morale is sky high at Team Kenya’s camp for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kampala with the squad members vowing to go for all individual and team titles despite stiff competition expected from Ethiopia and Kenyan exports to other nations.
The team’s camp at the Kigari Teachers’ Training College in Embu County is a beehive of activity as the team intensifies training for the March 26 global contest to be held at the Kololo Independence Grounds on the outskirts of Kampala.
The 30 athletes unanimously chose veteran Leonard Patrick Komon, world record holder in both the 10 and 15 kilometres on the road, as captain and Olympic 1,500 metres champion Faith Chepng’etich as his deputy as they prepare for the competition.
The two decorated athletes said they were keen on ensuring they rallied their troops to scooping as many titles as possible.
“The athletes are ready, we are preparing well and I’m certain that we will compete well in Kampala,” said Komon.
“We are set for individual and team titles. Have only two weeks to go and that time is enough for us.”
Komon together with Asbel Kiprop will be marking 10 years since breaking into Team Kenya during the 2007 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa.
Komon said the experience will come in handy as they seek to overcome major opposition from arch-rivals Ethiopia and Kenyans who have defected to other countries.
“It is not the first time that we are meeting them. I have faced them since when competing in the juniors. They will be easy to overcome,” he said.
Chepng’etich said the team is working together to ensure that they win as a team in Kampala.
Head coach Juma Ndiwa said he was satisfied with the progress so far, adding that they had no challenges of injury or poor form.
Ndiwa said his team is not afraid of those athletes who changed their nationalities to represent other countries, but are wary of the immense challenge from the defectors.
“We are not underrating those who left the country but Kenya has enough depth in terms of talent. This is a fight that we intend to win."
“During our selection, we were seeking six people per team and had great challenge in settling for the final squad since they were all very competitive.
“Anybody here has the potential to win,” said the coach as he conducted the team’s mid-morning runs near Kirigi Market.
The team, which comprises 12 junior, 12 senior and six relay runners, has been taking on morning runs while the two main bulk training sessions are from 10am and 4pm when the temperatures match match those expected in Kampala where the races will be run in the afternoon.
Ndiwa said the Kigari conditions were the favourite for Team Kenya since they vary from low attitude to high altitude and have changing temperatures that allow variety of training conditions.