As the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia came to an end yesterday, the overall feeling among Kenya’s running enthusiasts is one of mild disappointment and perhaps bewilderment.
Why would Kenya, a country with overflowing talent in athletics, enter only a handful of runners to the three-day global assignment?
Kenya had 10 athletes who included Ferdinand Omanyala in men’s 60m, Collins Kipruto and Noah Kibet (800m), former world U20 5000m champion Beatrice Chebet and Edinah Jebitok for 3000m, Naomi Korir and Eglay Nalianya in 800m, Jacob Krop and Daniel Simiyu in men’s 3,000m, while Abel Kipsang, who finished fourth at the Olympic Games competed in 1500m.
Kenya’s top runners have continued to give the the biennial championships a cold shoulder since it’s inaugural championships in 1985, in Paris.
From its Inception, Kenya has only collected 39 medals from the championships; 10 gold, 14 silver and 15 bronze medals.
Athletics Kenya executive member and Youth Development chairman Barnaba Korir said:
“The championships come early in the season and most athletes are not prepared. Also, the fact that the track is curved, poses a great danger to the athletes and that’s why top athletes avoid this event,” said Korir, who is also a former elite runner..
“This leaves the federation with limited choice when selecting the team to represent the country at the Indoor Championships.”
Rongai Athletics Club coach Bernard Ouma pointed to several factors that make the championships less attractive to Kenyan athletes.
“It could about interest. Most of these athletes are not interested because it has less financial attraction, perceived experience and also danger of the curved 200m track. Weather is also a major factor considering most indoors are ran in Europe during the winter season. Most managers don’t take keen interest in these races because they have less or no world ranking points,” Ouma, who handles world champions Timothy Cheruiyot, Elijah Manangoi, world under-20 champion Vincent Keter, Winny Chebet, Timothy Sein, George Manangoi, among others, noted.
Winning rewards at the World Indoor Championships are less compared with World Out Door Championships, like the one slated for July 15-24 in Eugene, United States.
Each winner at the Indoors pockets Sh2 million while at the outdoors, winners walk home with Sh5 million plus other bonuses.
Meanwhile, Noah Kibet, 17, pushed himself amongst the big boys to win the country’s first medal on Saturday; silver in men’s 800m behind Spanish Mariano García who won gold in 1:46.20.
Kibet, who is also the reigning World Under-20 800m champion, is a product of Ndura Athletics Club founded by Bonface Ndura Koimburi, an environmentalist and sport enthusiast in Kitale.