It has been a matter of speculation on who will take up the big challenge since Thursday when Geoffrey Kamworor pulled out of the country's 10,000m squad.
But on Sunday, World Under 20 10,000m champion Rhonex Kipruto was officially named for the assignment.
Moments after he was named by Team Kenya management, Kipruto said he was ready to fit into Kamworor’s big shoes.
“I am excited over the inclusion in Team Kenya. It has been our plan, together with my coach since 2018 when I earned the Under 20 title, to represent the country at the Olympics and I am thankful to Team Kenya management for considering me,” Kipruto told Standard Sport.
Kipruto, who broke the 10km road race world record last year, said he was informed of the decision to represent the country alongside Ronald Kwemoi and Weldon Kipkurui on Saturday.
“I faltered and dropped out of the race during the national trials. I think luck did not favour me that day. I have been training since then and I am prepared to take up the challenge,” he said.
He continued: “Competing at the Olympics has been my dream, and it has come true.”
Kipruto, who won bronze at the 2019 world championships in Doha said he was preparing to jet out to Tokyo either on Monday) or Tuesday.
Just like Kamworor, 21-year-old Kipruto comes from Keiyo South in Elgeyo Marakwet County, but the latter trains in Iten under veteran coach Brother Colm O’Connell while the former trains in Kaptagat alongside world record holder in the marathon, Eliud Kipchoge.
Kipruto was part of the leading pack during the national trials in June, alongside Kamworor and Kwemoi before he pulled out of the race in the 20th lap.
A section of Team Kenya athletes jetted out of the country on Friday evening for Tokyo, Japan.
Kipruto and his two compatriots are expected to give world record holder and world champion, Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei a tough challenge for the 10,000m Olympic gold medal this Friday.
Kenya has not won a 10,000m Olympic gold medal since 1968 when the late Naftali Temu stormed to victory in the 25-lap race in Mexico City.
Kamworor, the three-time World Half Marathon and World Cross Country champion was tipped to bring home the gold medal in Tokyo.
Kamworor was injured in a road accident in June last year while training but resiliently strode back to form, and won the national trials at the Moi International Sports Centre Kasaran in an imperious 27:01.16.
While announcing the inclusion of Kipruto to the team on Sunday, Team Kenya General manager Barnaba Korir said Kamworor picked an injury during training at the pre-departure camp in Kasarani.
“We are pleased to announce that 2019 World bronze medalist Rhonex Kipruto is the latest inclusion to our athletics team for the Tokyo Olympics. Kipruto has officially replaced Geoffrey Kamworor in the men's 10,000m team after the latter sustained an injury while training that unfortunately ruled him out of the Olympics on the eve of the Games' opening ceremony on Friday,” Korir said.
According to Korir, a decision to replace Kamworor with Kipruto was arrived at after Athletics Kenya sought clearance from Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) on the athlete’s anti-doping testing status.
“He (Kipruto) has already reported at Kasarani Stadion Hotel where the remaining part of team Kenya is in residential training in a bubble camp,” Korir said.
“Rhonex has commenced the mandatory Covid-19 testing protocols before departure and if all is well, will depart for Tokyo on Monday to link up with teammates; Rodgers Kwemoi and Weldon Kipkirui ahead of the men's 10,000m final set for Friday.”
Kipruto’s career in summary
He set the 26:24 10km road race world record on January 12, 2020 in Valencia. The former world record of 26:38 had been set by Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda.
He won the 10,000m bronze at the World Championships in Doha on October 6, 2019 in a time of 26:50.32. The race was won by Cheptegei.
He won gold in 10,000m at the World U20 10,000m in Tampere, Finland.
On February 10, 2018 he placed second in the Kenyan National Cross Country Championships.
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