After the weekend’s National Athletics Championships, focus now shifts to national trials for next month’s IAAF World Championships.
Beijing’s “Bird’s nest”, the famous venue of the 2008 Olympic Games, will host the Worlds from August 22 to 30 and should provide an indication of what to expect at next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Some of Kenya’s elites skipped the weekend’s nationals to travel to Lausanne for the Swiss leg of the IAAF Diamond League but the trials will be a full house. On the starting list to spice up the trials will be a legion of Kenya’s foreign-based athletes who make their annual pilgrimage which they honour to seek tickets to various global championships.
Leading the pack is nursing graduate from Texas Tech University, Sally Kipyego, a former World and Olympic 10,000m silver medallist from Kapsowar, Elgeyo Marakwet County who won a record-equalling career nine collegiate championships from the 3,000 metres all the way to the 10,000m. Then there is Betsy Saina, the amiable 27-year-old Iowa State University graduate who won the US Collegiate 5,000m title in 2012.
The men’s ‘summer bunnies’ list is headed by Japan-based Leonard Barsoton, silver medallist in the junior men’s race at the 2013 IAAF World Cross-country Championships. Barsoton is also the Africa Cross-country champion. Kipyego missed the last World Championships at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium due to injury but this time round says she is in great shape.
“Last time I didn’t get to participate in the championships because I had an injury but this time round I’m training hard to get a chance in Team Kenya’s 10,000m squad,” said Kipyego in an exclusive interview in Iten this week.
And this time round, she has decided to concentrate in the 10,000m unlike 2011 when she doubled up in the 5,000m and 10,000m.
NURSE BY PROFESSION
Kipyego is a nurse by profession but has decided to fully concentrate in her athletics, doing nursing as part time job. “I went to the USA not as a good athlete but because of learning. But after graduating, I decided to participate in athletics full-time. My life revolves in training, eating and sleeping. I love eating chapati very much when I come home,” says Kipyego.
Her siblings, Michael Kipyego and Christopher Kipyego, are seasoned athletes, Michael having won the Tokyo Marathon in 2012 and with a marathon personal best time of 2:06.48.
Saina, 27, is a road race specialist and, like Kipyego, went to the USA to study Health Science with athletics as a second passion. “I love training in Iten so much and it motivates me seeing my colleagues training here. I meet with hundreds of athletes every morning unlike in the USA where I can run a long distance without seeing anyone,” says Nandi County-born Saina. She is also eyeing a ticket in the 10,000m where she’ll face a huge challenge from the 29-year-old Kipyego.
Barsoton has also shifted his base from Tokyo to Iten. A key member of Nissin Foods Shokuhin team, Barsoto didn’t have a good outing at the World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang last March, finishing fifth.
But he is targeting a good outing in the 10,000m where he has a personal best of 27:20.75 clocked in October in Yamaguchi, Japan. Barsoton, from Nandi County, has set his sights on Britain’s evergreen Mo Farah, that’s if he make it through the rigorous trials.
Meanwhile, the absence of fans from the Kasarani terraces at this weekend’s nationals remains a big worry for the foreign legion that is used to running inside packed stadiums.