400M TEAM AIM HIGHER: Athletes hope to make mark at Rio Olympics

400m runner Raymond Kibet in training session ahead of Rio Olympics 2016 at Kipchoge Stadium in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County on July 21, 2016.[PHOTO:DENNIS OKEYO/STANDARD]

In the past two years, interest in sprints and field events has grown in Kenya, a country best known for middle and long-distance running.

The rise of short distance running was witnessed in last year’s World Championship in Beijing when Nicholas Bett made history by becoming the first Kenyan to bag gold in men’s 400m hurdles.

At the forthcoming Rio Olympics Games, Kenya has entered three athletes in the 400m led by former World Junior silver winner Alfas Kishoyian.

Also in the team is Raymond Kibet, a member of a quartet that won gold in the 4x400m relay at the All African Games in Congo Brazzaville in 2015 and Africa Junior silver medallist Alex Sampao.

Kibet, a former student at Moi High School Kabarak where he scooped ‘A’ in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education in 2014, is planning to combine running and petroleum engineering studies next year. But his main goal now is to represent Kenya at the global event.

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“I have really worked hard and have been blessed to run for Kenya at the Olympics. It’s a dream of any athlete to feature at the Olympics. This will be my forth time to wear my national team colours.

“I was also in the team to IAAF World Relays in Bahamas last year. It good that sprinters are now recognised,” said Kibet, who trains alongside Eunice Sum and Mercy Cherono at the Claudio Berardelli’s camp in Eldoret.

Kishoyian will be making his second appearance at the Olympics, having been a member of Team Kenya to 2012 London Olympics.

“In 2012, I was in London but didn’t run in 400m because I was entered late. But I ran 4x 400m. This time round, I’m starting at the blocks and ready for it. I’m preparing really well and looking forward to the Olympics experience with the big boys from USA and Jamaica,” said Kishoyian who is also the national 400m champion.

The Africa junior silver medallist Sampao was a surprise qualifier after struggling with hamstring injuries last year.

Sampao who hails from Kajiado County is hoping for the best performance in Rio.

The sprinters are being coached by John Anzrah, the younger brother to Harambee Stars football legend Joe Kadenge.

Anzrah is optimistic of good performance as he makes final touches to his charges before they depart July 31.

“My team is ready. We have prepared well and expect good performance at the Olympics and in the remaining few days we will be making final polishes,’’ said Anzrah.

No women sprinters made the Olympics qualification time in 400 and 100m.

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