For a sovereign nation, nothing beats the joy of the local citizenry watching national events held at home.
And the decision to divorce 5,000m and 10,000m selection from the traditional national trials remains a major talking point in Kenyan athletics circles.
Athletics Kenya officials have decided to have men’s and women’s 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres races held in Eugene, Oregon, USA, at the annual Prefontaine Classic track and field meeting on June 1 as part of the selection process of Kenya’s team to London Olympics.
On Wednesday, two-time Boston marathon winner Moses Tanui said Kenya can still pick the best Olympic team at the local trials instead of shipping the selected 46 athletes to America.
“The decision to have mini-trials in Oregon is like staging national holiday celebrations in a foreign land. And this beats logic because Kenya is a sovereign country. Athletes, both active and retired, always flock the national trials to watch the event. Now, it’s like holding Madaraka Day or taking any other national holiday celebrations to another country,” said Tanui, a former army man.
On Monday, AK named a squad to report High Performance Training Centre (HPTC) in Eldoret which will battle for 5,000m and 10,000m London tickets in Oregon.
High altitude camp
AK said the camp at the high altitude in Eldoret, sea level competitions in Oregon and residential camp at the high altitude will keep the athletes in great shape.
But Tanui, the 1991 IAAF world 10,000m champion, refuted the claims by the AK that Oregon race held at sea level will benefit local athletes, saying Kenyans were to blame for the poor preparations ahead of the Olympics.
“Athletes enter a lot of races in the season instead of sacrificing for the Olympics. I remember in 1988, we attended the national trials and camped in Kasarani and the performance was good.
“We won four gold medals from the track and one from boxing. The move by the AK could proves quite costly,” said Tanui, the first man in the world to run half marathon under one hour.
He said instead of spending money shipping athletes to the US, AK and its sponsors should use the money to develop athletics from the grassroots level.
“I am the chairman of AK Eldoret West branch and I am sometimes forced to use my money to take athletes to provincials since there is usually no money. I think it is prudent for the AK to use the money to support upcoming athletes,” he added.
He said the criteria is unfair and will deny many road racers a chance to compete for slots in the national team.