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It’s race against time for Kenyan athletes

ATHLETICS By Stephen Rutto | April 27th 2021
Machakos Club's Gladys Mumbe leading in 4*400m mixed relay race during AK first relay series at Nyayo National stadium on Saturday, Jan 9, 2020. [Jonah nyango, Standard]

World Relays, Continental Tour and Diamond Leagues are key races that athletes take part in ahead of national trails.

With sporting activities suspended and Tokyo Olympic Games fast approaching, there’s no time to rest for Kenyan athletes.

There are no indications that sporting events in the country will resume soon to pave way for national trials.

With this dilemma, the question is what next for Kenya as it seeks to have its Olympic team ready on time?

Athletics Kenya official Barnaba Korir had indicated a week ago that 47 athletes had already met the qualifying times for the world show, and that individual runners, who have qualified for the Summer Games, will be called for the national trials, in case sporting events would not have resumed by June.

Several athletes are, however, still struggling to meet qualifying times due to limited number of competitions.

Four-time world half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor, who is eying 10,000m in the Olympics, told Standard Sport last week that he was training for the event but with no race in mind ahead of the national trials. “I am back from injury and training well. There are no races, but we must train,” the four-time world cross country champion said.

With no option of competing locally, the World Athletics Continental Tour, which kicked off in Eugene, USA on Saturday, the Diamond Leagues which will start in 26 and World Relays Championships starting next week on May 1 and 2, remain the key races that Kenyan Olympic prospects will compete in as they try to meet qualifying times.

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Bahamian Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo timed 49.08 to break the 400m stadium record at the USATF Grand Prix in Eugene – the first leg of the 2021 Continental Tour races.

After Eugene, the Continental Tour Gold series heads to the Japanese capital for the ‘Ready Steady Tokyo’ meeting, the official test competition for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

It will be taking place 12 weeks before the Olympic Games begin. This meeting will provide Kenyan athletes with their first look at the state-of-the-art facility that will host the Olympic athletics competition as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.

Launched last year, the aim of the World Athletics Continental Tour is to create a coherent global tour of the best international one-day meets outside of the Wanda Diamond League, reaching across every continental area. The tour comprises Gold, Silver and Bronze level meetings spanning the globe and is held from February to December.

Kenya will host the event dubbed Kip Keino Classic on September 18, after Olympics.

Following the Olympic Games (24 July-August 9) and the Wanda Diamond League final in Zurich, the tour will resume in September with stops in Silesia, Poland and the Croatian capital Zagreb before concluding, once again, with the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi, a meeting which made a successful debut in 2020.

A contingent of 36 track stars led by World 800m bronze medallist Ferguson Rotich leaves for Poland tomorrow for the World Relays show in Silesia.

“Despite the challenges occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, I express my optimism because the team has prepared well for the championships. I believe we shall surpass our achievements in Yokohama (2019),” AK senior Vice President Paul Mutwii said.

The squad will compete in men and women’s 4x200m and 4x400m, mixed 4x400m, 2x2x400m and shuttle hurdles relay.Rotich will be joined in mixed 2x2x400m by Commonwealth 800m champion Wycliffe Kinyamal, Naomy Korir and Emily Cherotich.

The team also features national 400m record-holder Hellen Syombua and Aron Koech, who were part of the mixed 4x400m bronze medal-winning team at the last edition of the event in Yokohama in 2019.

Another opportunity for Kenyan athletes to stamp authority in the track presents itself through next month’s Diamond Leagues races.

According to the latest calendar Diamond League races start in Gateshead on May 23 before moving to Doha on May 28 and Rome on June 10.

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