By Omulo Okoth in London
Did Kipchoge Keino curse the athletics team after they shot down the pre-Olympics camp in Bristol?
Head coach, Julius Kirwa, said Keino, an elder wagged his finger at them at the Kasarani camp following the uproar kicked up by the planned camp in Bristol.
“When we arrived at Heathrow Airport, he (Keino) was in the welcoming party and we saw him shedding tears,” said Kirwa.
“This left us in shock because for an old man to shed tears in public does not bode well for young people,” Kirwa told FeverPitch at the Olympic Village in Stratford, on Monday.
But Keino, speaking on phone from the Hilton Parkside where the International Olympic Committee members are booked, asked Kirwa to take responsibility for technical flaws that ended in such a poor performance.
“I did not wag my finger at anybody at Kasarani. I was at the Heathrow Airport to welcome them. I even organised musicians to welcome them. I shed tears of joy seeing my countrymen arriving for the big event. The patriotic music would make anybody shed tears,” said Keino.
“I later went to the village and asked for forgiveness in case I had wronged them during the debate on Bristol,” the grand old man of Kenyan athletics told FeverPitch. Kirwa said the argument for and against training in Bristol distracted them during training.
NOC-K and the Government arranged for the team to camp in a Bristol venue before the Games, but Athletics Kenya (AK) argued training at low altitude before major Games was technically inappropriate.
Some people even claimed it was Keino’s way of projecting his image globally. He was bestowed with the honour of Freedom of the City of Bristol and a stadium named after him there.
Kirwa, however, accepted that Pamela Jelimo miscalculated and took off earlier than was advised. “We agreed with Pamela and Janeth (Jepkosgei) that because Pamela was the stronger athlete, she would start sprinting with 200m to the finish. She started with 350m to finish. This killed her,” said Kirwa.
Kirwa criticised his 1,500m team of Asbel Kiprop, Silas Kiplagat and Nixon Chepseba, saying they did not run well at all.
“I asked them and they also accepted that they did not run well. I don’t know why and their explanation did not convince me. There must be something they don’t want to say. This race is disturbing me to this day,” said Kirwa.
Kirwa questioned the rationale of allowing foreigners to train in Kenya, citing Mo Farah, Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich and Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi, who won the 1,500m.
“Overall, I can’t say the performance was bad because we had many of them posting personal best times. But I will say more back home,” said Kirwa.
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