Paris Olympics tops the list of global meets for Kenyan athletes

Kenya's Beatrice Chebet after winning this year's women's 10km race at the World Athletics cross country championships in Bathurst, Australia. [Xinhua]

Get set for another rich menu of athletics showdowns in 2024. Opportunities for medal hauls have been lined up in an activity-packed year.

In 2023, the country’s athletics stars fought off strong challenges from their global counterparts as they extended their dominance at the World Championships in Budapest and during the Bathurst World Cross Country bonanza among other international races.

Kenyan athletics enthusiasts and fans across the world will be spoilt for choice as they wait to cheer top guns in a busy year, and perhaps blistering races.

From the biggest extravaganza – the Paris Olympics, to the World Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, Serbia and to World Under-20 Championships in Lima, Peru, a rich menu of mouthwatering contests will highlight 2024.

Global stars flying their countries’ colours will line up alongside stars from other countries.

Tracks and roads in host countries are getting ready for blazes and fireworks.

The stages have also been set for tough contests locally and internationally.

Gold medalist Peres Jepchirchir, left, of Kenya, stands with silver medalist and compatriot Brigid Kosgei, centre, and bronze medalist Molly Seidel, right, of the United States, following the women's marathon at the 2020 Summer Olympics.[AP]

Kenyan athletes, as has been a tradition for over 60 years, will compete with their sights on rich prize money and prestigious titles.

The third edition of Sirikwa Classic Cross Country Tour and the fifth Kip Keino Classic Continental Tour are among global competitions that will electrify Eldoret and Nairobi respectively in February and April.

World Secondary Schools cross country championships add to the list of top events that will spice up an electrifying atmosphere in Kenya.

Ngong Racecourse in Nairobi will play host to the high schools’ competition in May.

With a history of producing historic performances and topping charts, the world will be watching Kenya’s moves including preparations of the country’s teams ahead of the global championships.

Athletics Kenya Nairobi executive committee member and youth development director Barnaba Korir asked Kenyans to support the country’s athletes as they prepare to carry the hopes of an expectant nation.

“To our beautiful fans – the Kenyans. I want to tell you that our athletes go through extreme difficulties to achieve the results we are seeing. Whenever they are competing, let us go out and cheer them on,” Korir said in a New Year message to fans and athletes.

The country’s preparations for the 2024 Paris Olympics have already started with the ongoing track and field events.

Kenya's 3,000m medals at the World Under-20 Championships in Cali, Colombia Felix Kiptarus Korir and Edwin Kimosong Kisalsak. [Courtesy]

A tentative Olympic marathon squad comprising the world’s fastest men over the distance – world record breaker Kelvin Kiptum and 42km great Eliud Kipchoge was released earlier in December signaling a tough contest in Paris.

Athletes used 2023 track and road events to hit the Olympic qualifying marks while others are eyeing the standards early this year.

The tickets to Paris will be contested at the National Trials tentatively set for June 14 and 15, barely two months to the global showpiece.

The country’s marathon team is set to be named way before the June trials which will be staged at the Kasarani Stadium.

Away in Paris, France is pulling all stops as it prepares to host global stars, among them an expected Kenya’s stellar cast.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board held a meeting in Paris recently as it sought to assess the level of preparedness ahead of the games.

“The IOC is doing everything possible to contribute actively to the preparation of the Olympic Games. The 2024 Olympic Games will be a turning point in the history of the Olympics because it is targeted at a more sustainable, more urban, more inclusive and with the achievement of gender parity,” IOC President Thomas Bach told a press briefing in Paris.

The National Olympic Committee-Kenya Secretary General Francis Mutuku said the country’s athletes who had qualified for this year’s Olympics were being recorded ahead of the selection of a national team to the show.

On March 30, the globe’s attention will be on the World Cross Country Championships in Belgrade.

Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum lunges to the finish line as he wins men's elite race at 2023 London Marathon in London. [Xinhua]

Last September, the World Athletics Council re-awarded the Championships after it was found that preparations at Medulin and Pula in Croatia, which previously won the bid to host the event on February 10 failed to advance in their readiness to stage the international competition.

The 2024 World Cross Country Championships will be held in the Park of Friendship, next to the Danube River in the heart of Belgrade, which was also the site of the 2013 European Championships.

Kenya is slowly building her team as it targets to defend its top spot of the World Cross Country charts. It topped the 2023 edition in Bathurst, Australia in February.

Cross country weekend meetings are underway, culminating in the national cross country championships scheduled for February 24.

The World Under-20 Championships will be another highlight, happening just after the Olympic Games.

Last November, Athletics Kenya announced the setting up of 40 youth training camps, among them 19 news centres where top Under-20 talents would be prepared for the Lima showdown.

The federation said the camps would be distributed across the country and would accord the youngsters an opportunity to train hard in preparation for the 2024 World championships.

Kenya's Emmanuel Korir (right) and Ferguson Rotich celebrate after winning 800m Olympic gold and silver medal respectively in men's 800m final. [AP]

Last year in Cali, Kenyan youth placed fourth on the medal table behind the USA which bagged seven gold medals, Jamaica (six), Ethiopia (6). Kenya had three gold medals.

Locally, cross country races including Kenya Police, Kenya Defence Forces and Kenya Prisons as well as Athletics Kenya regional championships are among events to watch this January, ahead of the national competition and the World Cross contest. There is also Discovery Kenya Cross Country.

On the global scene, the Diamond Leagues which will kick off in Xiamen, China in April and close at the finals in Brussels on September 13 and 14 will offer another platform for big battles.

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