Sunday, February 4, 2007

Power-packed Kenya


THE Kenyans will turn up in full force for the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth
Games and going by the list of entries sent to Sukom Ninety Eight, they
are going to make a clean sweep in the middle and long distance track
Daniel Komen, Wilson Boit Kipketer, Japheth Kimutai ... the list is long
and impressive, if they are not worn out after the World Cup in South
Africa on Sept 11-13.
The athletics events for the Games begin on Sept 16-21.
Kenya will be represented by 27 men and 11 women. While their women have
yet to make a name in the world scene, the men are power packed.
Komen, the world indoor 3,000m champion, will be running in the 1,500m
in Kuala Lumpur because he wants to improve on his speed after Ethiopian
Haile Gebreselassie cracked his 5,000m world record at the Helsinki Grand
Prix in July.
Gebreselassie clocked 12:39.36 to erase Komen's time of 12:39.74.
Not to be outdone, compatriots John Kibowen and Laban Rotich are also in
the running for the 1,500m gold. Kibowen has a personal best of 3:33.43
while Rotich's best is 3:32.11.
"I have a surprise in store for athletics enthusiasts," Rotich was
quoted earlier this month.
Komen and Gebreselassie have been playing cat-and-mouse for much of the
year and Komen got his revenge when he shattered the Ethiopian's 5,000m
indoor world record at the Globen Galan in Stockholm in February.
He clinched the record with an astonishing time of 12:51.48 - shaving
nearly eight seconds off the world mark of 12:59.04 set by Gebrselassie at
the Globen Galan last year.
This was the latest conquest in a tightly-fought rivalry between the two
athletes and came just 13 days after Komen beat Gebrselassie's world
indoor 3,000m record with a time of 7:24.90 in Budapest. In August 1997,
Komen bettered Gebrselassie's outdoor 5,000m mark.
But since Ethiopian Gebreselassie will not be competing, the Kenyans
will have a field day in the 5,000m and 10,000m as well.
In the 1,500m Japheth Kimutai, who gave up soccer for athletics, toppled
Wilson Kipketer in the 800m with 1:44.96 at the Zurich Grand Prix earlier
this month.
He is the world No 1 over two laps this year with a time of 1:42.7.
The 20-year-old Kimutai has been described as being as "smooth as
Kipketer". And his 32-year-old Australian manager, James Templeton,
clearly thinks that he is the new world force.
Kimutai handed his former compatriot Wilson Kipketer his first defeat in
almost three years in Monaco. Kimutai, who chose athletics ahead of soccer
because he idolised Kip Keino, got the better of Kipketer, the Kenyan-born
naturalised Dane in the final 20 metres to become the first man since
Benson Koech beat the world indoor and outdoor record holder in the Grand
Prix Final in Monaco.
The 3,000m steeplechase has attracted world-class field, including
Olympic champion Joseph Keter, world champion Boit Kipketer and world
record holder Bernard Barmasai.
Barmasai's time is 7:55.72. KENYAN SQUAD
Men - 400m: Abednego Mutunga, Kennedy Ochieng; 800m: Jebet Lagat,
Japheth Kimutai, Patrick Ndururi, Kennedy Ngetich; 1,500m: Laban Rotich,
Daniel Komen, Sammy Rono, John Kibowen; 5,000m: Paul Koech, Richard Limo,
Thomas Nyariki; 10,000m: William Kalya, Simon Maina, Elijah Lagat; 400m
hurdles: Eric Keter; 3,000 steeplechase: Wilson Boit Kipketer, Gineon
Kipngetich, John Kosgei, Bernard Barmasai, Joseph Keter; 20km walk: Julius
Kipkoech, David Rotich Kimutai; Long and Triple jump: Remmy Kimutai;
Javelin: Paul Kiprotich; Marathon: Eric Kimaiyo, Simon Lopuyet.
Women - 800m: Jebet Lagat, Gladys Wamuhu; 1,500m: Jackline Maranga,
Naomi Mugo; 5,000m: Sally Barsosio; 10,000m: Margarat Okayo, Esther
Wanjiru; Marathon: Angelina Kanana, Lucia Subano; Triple jump and
heptahhlon: Caroline Anyango Kola; 10km walks: Monica Akoth Okumu.