Kenyans depart for Moscow, but Ezekiel Kemboi remains behind

President Uhuru, in matching team colours, encourages distance runner Mercy Cherono after the national team was handed the national flag at State House Nairobi on Friday. The team departed to Moscow yesterday after a 12-hour delay. [PHOTO: MARTIN MUKANGU/STANDARD]
By Jonathan Komen

 Kenya’s athletics team arrives in Moscow, Russia, this evening for the 14th IAAF World Athletics Championships that starts on Saturday.

 The team, which was scheduled to depart on Monday at 4pm, were stranded alongside other passengers at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Monday night over jet fuel shortage.

 The team, which comprised 44 athletes and 13 officials, departed JKIA with over-night stop-over in Dubai before proceeding to Moscow at 8am today.

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 But Olympic 3,000m steeplechase champion, Ezekiel Kemboi, failed to travel with the team. The team left JKIA shortly after 9.30am yesterday morning.

 Kemboi, the two-time world champion, has dominated the race with his theatrics and victory jig at global competitions.

His celebration and the mohawk hairstyle makes him the darling of many athletics fans around the world.

Benjamin Njoga, the Moscow team manager, said Kemboi secretly changed his flight schedule without consulting the team officials.

Weather conditions

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 “He did not tell me that the weather conditions in Moscow would affect him. It would have been wise for him to notify us,” said Njoga.

 The women’s marathon battle gets underway on Saturday and the men’s 3,000m steeplechase on Monday and the final on Thursday.

The women’s 10,000m squads are also scheduled to compete on the first day of competition on Saturday.

 Kemboi will lead Olympic bronze medalist Abel Mutai, world junior champion Conseslus Kipruto and 2012 Diamiond Trophy winner, Paul Kipsiele Koech, in the title defence bid.

 Athletics Kenya Public relations Officer, Evans Bosire, ruled out that the flight delay would affect team performance in Moscow.

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 “They were not agonised at all. They understood and took it as normal. So there are no worries,” said Bosire.

 The team will be seeking to surpass the superlative showing they posted at the 2011 outing in Daegu, South Korea, where they finished third with seven gold medals, six silver and four bronze – way above the five gold medals, three silver and five bronze they won at the 2007 showpiece in Osaka.

Clinical battle

 Women’s 10,000m and marathon squads will warm the ground for a clinical battle in the nine-day action in which head coach Sammy Rono said they have a medal-laden line up.

 “The time we have all been waiting is here. We are ready and expect good results. The training was good and we have no injuries. What is left is for them to bring medals as needed,” he said.

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World 1,500m champion Asbel Kiprop, silver medalist Silas Kiplagat, Olympic semi finalist Nixon Chepseba and Diamond League speedster Bethwel Birgen stand out as the hot favourites.

But Rono warned: “Asbel, Chepseba and Kiplagat failed to secure medals in London and if they fail this time, it will appear deliberate.”

Other medal chances include Kenyan trials 10,000m winner Bedan Karoki, double African women gold winner, Gladys Cherono, Steeplechasers Milcah Chemos and Lydia Chepkurui, and 1500m runners Faith Kipyegon and Hellen Obiri.

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Athletics Russia IAAF World Athletics Championships Ezekiel Kemboi