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Will Kenya finally open its medal account today?

ATHLETICS By Bismarck Mutahi in Tokyo, Japan | August 2nd 2021
Kenya's Hellen Obiri in action during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics women's 5000m round one, on Friday. [Reuters]

Kenya’s performance at the Tokyo Olympics has not been encouraging so far.

However not much was expected from the events that Kenyans have competed in and only an overly optimistic Kenyan would have expected the country to strike gold in boxing, swimming, taekwondo, indoor volleyball even beach volleyball.

The track and field programme however started on Friday and with 10,000m men final the only event of the day, there was hope for at least a medal for Kenya, an event that a Kenyan last won 53 years.

Days of expecting much from where there is no hope are over though as the 3,000m Steeplechase final and the women 5,000m final are on the Olympics menu today.

It is the day that Kenya’s athletics fans are waiting with bated breath considering that the 5000m world champion and Olympic silver medallist Hellen Obiri will be on the start line at the Olympics Stadium at 3:50pm alongside Agnes Tirop and Lillian Kasait.

Before that though, Abraham Kibiwott and Benjamin Kigen will have taken to the track in trying to protect Kenya’s honour in the 3,000m men steeplechase at 3:15pm.

There is fear though that Kenya could lose the 3,000m steeplechase Olympic title for the first time in nine Olympic Games. Kigen has, however, has promised to protect Kenya’s tough even if it means collapsing on the start line.

“We know steeplechase is a Kenyan event and we have to fight to make sure that we take the gold medal home,” Kigen said.

It is in the 5,000m final though that Kenyans think it is Obiri’s race to lose, even though the 2019 world champion has been quick to point out that a championship race is always difficult to predict.

“This is a tough race and I have seen that everyone is strong. This is a race with no pace setters, so it will be unpredictable and I know the likes of Hassan (Sifan) will fight hard,” Obiri said.

When it comes to major championships though, Obiri is the only woman to have ever won a set of world titles indoors, outdoors and at cross country and has been the dominant force in recent years, winning world 5000m titles in both 2017 and 2019 and an Olympics silver behind Vivian Cheruiyot in Rio five years ago.

She may have finished second at the trials, but she went on to win at the Diamond League meeting in Oslo.

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