Deaf athletes in exciting duels at Olmpics qualifiers

By Joan Letting and Nelson Opuya: Wednesday, May 24th 2017 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
DEAFLYMPICS From left: 5000m Winner Hannah Wanjiru, Second Position Roselyda Okumu and third Position Juster Kwamesa pose for a photo during the Safaricom National Deaf Athletics Championship held at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret. They will be participating in the Deaflympics in Turkey in July.

The field was quiet. Sign language was the order of the day.

Hundreds had turned up to watch the young men and women participate in the Safaricom National Deaf Athletics championships that kicked off yesterday at Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret.

The Deaf Athletics Association of Kenya (DAAK) will use the two-day event to select the team to represent Kenya at the 2017 Deaflympics games in Turkey in July.

As the white flag was lifted, World deaf athletics 5,000m record holder and triple Deaflympics champion Simon Kibai dashed off in a bid to secure the top position. This time, however, luck was not on his side.

The 29-year-old Kibai was beaten to the tape by his counterpart John Koech, who clocked 3.56.1, and was followed closely by Kibai, five microseconds later, in the 1500m race.

Kokobi Omari and Baxtone Menjo came in third and fourth.

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Koech, who hails from Nakuru County, has been training in Ngong Hills with the Kenya Defence Forces team.

“I started training in 2013 in Narok. Sadly, during that year, I could not make it to the team after I sustained an injury. I was number one in the national trials in 2016, but could not participate in the third World Deaf Athletics Championship in Bulgaria due to lack of hearing aids,” said Koech through an interpreter.

Kibai, who broke the 10,000m world record in 2013 accepted the loss, but vowed to reclaim his status when they get to Turkey.

“I am not a worried man. We now have a youth who gave me a run for my money. But I am going for a gold medal in Turkey. I hope to break the world record,” said Kibai.

Hannah Wanjiru, 21, a student from Nyandarua won the 5,000m and 1,500m category.

Wanjiru clocked 5:12:7 to beat Anna Nasimiyu who came in second in 5:25:6. Timina Barasa and Aida Odera came in 3rd and 4th in the 1500m race. [Joan Letting and Nelson Opuya]