MAKORI: Let's get serious with Commonwealth Games selection - Daily Nation

Let's get serious with Commonwealth Games selection

Tuesday January 23 2018

Kenneth Mung'ara (2nd R) competes in the men's 42 km race in the Standard Chartered Nairobi marathon on October 27, 2013. PHOTO | FILE |

Kenneth Mung'ara (2nd R) competes in the men's 42 km race in the Standard Chartered Nairobi marathon on October 27, 2013. PHOTO | FILE |  AFP

By ELIAS MAKORI
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Last week, Athletics Kenya selectors picked the men’s and women's marathon squads for April's Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

I may not be a coach, but I differ with the selection which appears premised on a politically-correct, regional balancing act rather than on merit, something that could be an issue Down Under as Kenya attempts to reclaim the gold medal won by Australia's Michael Shelley in Glasgow four years ago.

The selectors' mitigation that athletes called up failed to respond in time doesn't wash, given the huge catchment and pedigree Kenya enjoys in marathon running.

Granted, Kenneth Mung'ara, who headlines Kenya’s squad to Australia, has won the Gold Coast Marathon twice before, in 2015 and 2016, and will be treading on familiar ground at the April 4-15 games.

But at 44 years of age, Mung’ara, who also won last Sunday's windy Hong Kong Marathon in two hours 13 minutes and 39 seconds, and who has a personal best time of 2:07:36, a world record in the Masters (40-45 years' category), will be hard-pressed to deliver the Gold Coast gold under pressure from fleet-footed athletes half his age.

And then again surfaces the question on whether or not he will have recovered well enough from Sunday's race to remain competitive in just under two and a half months. Indeed it will be a Herculean task.

Nicholas Kamakya is also in the Kenyan team to the games. Like Mung'ara, he has triumphed in the Commonwealth Games host city before, winning the Gold Coast Marathon way back in 2011 before picking his PB (2:06:34) in finishing fourth at the Berlin Marathon six years ago.

Last September, Kamakya, 32, was a late entry into the Berlin Marathon and I recall meeting him limping back to the changing rooms after aggravating an injury that ended his campaign hardly 10 kilometres into the race. He told me then that the injury has been bothering him for a while...

That he made the team to Gold Coast is a plus for his medical team and management who seem to have convinced the selectors to give him the ticket to the “Club” games in April. Honestly, I doubt he will make an impact and finishing the race will be a bonus.

Julius Karinga, winner of last year's Copenhagen Marathon (2:12:11, shattering a 30-year-old course record) completes the men’s line up having caught the eye of the selectors.
Karinga, has a PB of 2:08:01 from the Dubai Marathon, but at 38, like Mung'ara, he will have to summon extra-ordinary energy to medal in Gold Coast against a field of younger, faster and hungrier athletes from other Commonwealth nations.

Kenya finished 1-2 in the women’s race at the Glasgow games four years ago through Irene Kosgei and Irene Mogaka, a feat that I see difficult to replicate in Gold Coast given the rookie line-up the AK selectors have settled for.

Last year's Mombasa Marathon winner Shelmith Muriuki, 2014 Warsaw Marathon champion Hellen Nzembi and Kosice Marathon course record holder Sheila Jerotich hardly enjoy the class expected of Kenya at a championship race.

But again, I could be proved wrong. And would love to be.

As we build up towards these iconic games, all federations given the green light to fly the Kenya flag Down Under must hold transparent selections based on merit.

We learnt huge lessons from the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, and repeating the same would be a sick joke!

Serious flaws were documented in the Rio fiasco - from selection to preparations, distribution of allowances and travel - mistakes if repeated in Gold Coast will indeed be taking Kenyans too much for granted.

That the government's prosecutorial machinery hasn’t delivered on the grand Rio theft shouldn’t be licence for those charged with the responsibility of leading our teams to Australia to plunder tax payers’ hard-earned resources.

Kenya's chef de mission to the Australia games, Barnabas Korir, is a man of repute and should stamp his authority to ensure we have only the best and deserving sportsmen and women, along with officials, on the flight to Gold Coast.

The buck stops with him, as team leader, and knowing him well, I expect he will read the riot act to the federations and rid us of the serial joyriders.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.