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Kenyan greats come out in full force to support young generation at games

By | July 30th 2010

By Omulo Okoth at Nyayo Stadium

For the past two days, Nyayo Stadium has been the melting pot of the old and current generation. Kenya’s veteran athletes showed up to support the current runners during the 17th Safaricom African Senior Athletics Championships, whose land was donated to Kenya Amateur Athletics Association, the forerunner of Athletics Kenya, by the former’s first chairman Sir Derek Erskine.

The Local Organising Committee invited the retired athletes to come forward for recognition and also receive a token and a plaque.

Those who live outside the city were booked at the Hotel 680, a walking distance from Nyayo Stadium.

Fond memories

Seeing some of them evoked very fond memories of Kenya’s long distance dominance. Ben Jipcho, Robert Ouko, Samson Kimombwa and Charles Asati took those who were around then many years back. Joseph Gikonyo, who lives in London, brought fresh memories of his stiff competitions with Kennedy Ondiek, which made 100m and 200m races a must watch during National Championships between 1990 and 1994. Kennedy Ochieng’ and Simeon Kipkemboi made us remember the years they were in the 4x400m relay team that ruled the roost in Africa.

Yobes Ondieki, who was the first man to run 10,000m in under 27 minutes, and his proteges -- Thomas Osano and her wife Dellilah Asiago, William Koech and Lameck Aguta, who won Boston City Marathon in 1997, brought quite some nostalgic feelings among athletics followers of gone years.

Record holder

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Ishmael Kirui, who won 5,000m world title twice (1993, 1995), 1992 Barcelona Olympics 800m champion William Tanui, too was here. Add Daniel Komen, Benjamin Limo and John Kibowen to this glittering list and you wonder why the IAAF abolished the 4km race from the World Cross Country Championships programme. Present, too, was former 800m African record holder, Sammy Koskei.

Noah Ngeny, who shocked 1500m Sydney Olympics favourite Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco and Paul Koech both of who are officiating at the games, were also present. Sammy Koskei

Tecla Chemabwai, Alice Adala and Rose Tata Muya reminded us of days the women defied age-old traditions to reign. Also with them was Edith Masai, who won three world cross country 4km titles in a row. But hundreds, probably close to 1,000, more did not show up. Veteran athletics writer and former national schools 10,000m champion Aileen Kimutai opined: "If all old runners were to be invited to Nairobi, it would need a seperately-organised function lasting two days to complete."

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