The 1999 Stuttgart World Championships remains the most memorable for Kenya’s 4x400 metres men’s relay team.
The quartet of Kennedy Ochieng, Simon Kemboi, Abednego Matilu and Samson Kitur won the country its first medal at the global contest when they finished second behind world record-setting USA during the fourth edition of the biennial championships.
The Kenyans clocked two minutes, 59.82 seconds but still fell short of out-pacing the Americans who set a new time of 2:54.29. It remains not only Kenya’s best performance in the race but Africa’s at the Worlds.
South Africa is the only other nation on the continent to have broken into the medal bracket, settling for bronze in the 1999 Seville Worlds.
Such is the performance that Kenya’s team wants to emulate at the 13th edition of the global championships that run from August 24 to September 4 in Daegu, South Korea.
For the current team of Anderson Mureta, Mark Mutai, Vincent Mumo, Vincent Koskei Kiplagat and Julius Kirwa, 18 years is quite a long wait for another medal.
Nevertheless, the team sees a silver-lining what of their performance at the Africa Championships and Commonwealth Games last year setting up the stage for Daegu assault.
Kenya won gold at the continental event before settling for silver at Delhi “Club” Games.
Mutai, who went on to win gold in 400m in Delhi and was part of the Africa team that claimed bronze at the Continental Cup, believes that the 1993 feat can be replicated or even perfected.
“We are in the best shape ever and our target is the final and it’s from where we shall launch the assault for the medal,” said Mutai, 33.
“We have prepared well and each one of us is working hard, leaving nothing to chance.”
Mumo, 29 is confident that if Kenya managed to outclass Jamaica, Bahamas, England and Trinidad and Tobago in Delhi then a repeat performance is possible. Australia and USA are the other heavyweights that Kenya look to wade off.
Mutai and Mumo, who are making their second return to the worlds said their experience will also count. “Our tactics have improved greatly,” said Mumo.
Despite making his first appearance at the worlds, Koskei noted that his appearance for Kenya team at Commonwealth games and Africa championship is enough to give him confidence.
Mureta, 24 explained that its only poor weather and illness that can be an obstacle to their medal ambitions in Daegu.
Mureta and Mutai, who will double in 400m explained that they are also eying the 2012 London Olympic Games qualification both in relay and the one-lap race. “ My personal best is currently at 45.25 while I want to target 45.22. I am sure I will do it at Daegu,” said Mureta.
In future, Mutai said there is need to have long residential training coupled with gym sessions. “We have not been able to get quality gym workout and long runs, which contributes to improved show,” said Mutai.