By Jonathan Komen
Nairobi, Kenya: World-beating deaf athletes Wednesday vowed to improve their pecking order at the 22nd Summer Deaflympics Games in Sofia, Bulgaria, in August.
Three top guns – Baxtone Menjo, David Kipkogei and Daniel Kiptum – made the announcement after they won their races at the Deaf Athletics Association of Kenya national trials at Nyayo National Stadium.
The trio produced a superlative showing at the last Deaflympics Games in Taipei, Taiwan, in 2009. They vowed to post better marks at the Deaf Olympics Games this summer.
Menjo, who also bagged a bronze medal in 800m at the Taipei city of Taiwan, said he has gathered enough experience that will propel him to gold in Bulgaria.
“I was still young in Taipei. But this time, I feel I have grown up and ready to battle world’s top athletes,” said Menjo, who comes from Kapsabet.
The runner, who trains with able-bodied athletes, added: “I need to run 3:40 this time. I train with some of the best 1,500m runners in the able category and hope nothing will stop me.”
Menjo showed no respect for his opponents in the qualifying rounds, strolling to victory in 3:52.2. Geoffrey Kamia (4:05.03) and Haroun Kimutai (4:07.6) followed.
But Kipkogei, who shrugged the disability taunts to win gold medals in 5,000m and 10,000m in Taiwan, is keen to prove his critics wrong.
Saved by father
Kipkogei, 32, had however, been denied entry into the national trials on grounds he did not compete at the County Athletics Championships. He was saved by his father, Joseph Kiptum, who sought intervention with the Sports Commissioner’s Gordon Oluoch’s officer and survived into the race.
“I am happy I could be allowed to compete at last. I will do my best to payback selectors if picked into the team,” said Kipkogei, who braved numerous challenges before taking up athletics in his home in Keiyo South.
When he started to train running on the Eldoret-Eldama Ravine highway, Kipkogei’s villagers mocked him and even warned motorists to be careful that “a deaf boy was running around in the busy roads. But he silenced them when he won two gold medals at the Taipei championships.
He will be up against silver medalist and Marakwet-born Daniel Kiptum, who is plotting to bring him down.
“I want to beat Kipkogei this time,” said Kiptum.