Kenya's Comeback

Kenya: Red Carpet Rolled Out for Kenyan Squad

The Nation (Nairobi)

4 September 2007
Posted to the web 4 September 2007


The red carpet is out ahead of the national athletics team’s arrival today from Osaka where they finished second overall at the 11th IAAF World Athletics Championships.

Athletics Kenya secretary, David Okeyo, yesterday announced that the team would arrive at 6 pm aboard an Emirates Airlines flight from the Japanese city.

“They have done us proud and the focus is now on next year’s Olympic Games in Beijing,” Okeyo said yesterday.

“Most of the athletes in the Osaka team are young and they are the same ones we will rely on for medals in Beijing with a few additions. We will not rest simply because we did well in Osaka,” Okeyo added.

Against all odds, Kenya staged its best ever performance in the history of the World Athletics Championships winning 13 medals - five gold, three silver and five bronze - as the curtains came down on the biannual global event in Osaka on Sunday night.

With critics having written off the team, which was Kenya’s smallest contingent yet in the 24-year competition’s history, the joint effort by both the coaches and Athletics Kenya officials ensured Kenya finished second behind the large US team that grabbed a total of 26 medals.

However, no elaborate plans to party with all the medals are in place yet as a good number of the medallists will travel to Europe having been contracted to run in several track meets, including Friday’s Weltklasse Zurich Golden League meet.

Reception arrangements

“Plans are that we will accommodate the team that arrives tomorrow at Kasarani for the night.” Okeyo said.

He added that the association was awaiting further details from the Commissioner of Sports, Gordon Oluoch, who is co-ordinating the Government’s reception arrangements.

Little known 24-year-old Prisons warder, Luke Kibet, set the ball rolling on the opening day of the Osaka championships when he broke the country’s 20-year wait for a World Championships gold medal.

When Japan-based marathoner-turned-musician Douglas Wakiihuri struck the last gold in Rome in 1987, clocking two hours 11 minutes and 48 seconds, Kibet was just four and could hardly comprehend what was happening in global athletics.

Brimin Kipruto (3,000m steeplechase), Janeth Jepkosgei (800m women), Catherine Ndereba (women’s marathon) and young Alex Kirwa (800m men) accounted for Kenya’s other gold medals in Osaka with Ezekiel Kemboi (3,000m steeplechase), Eliud Kipchoge (5,000m) and Vivian Cheruiyot (5,000m) landing silver.

The bronze medal winners were Richard Matelong (3,000m steeplechase), Shedrack Kibet Korir (1,500m), Martin Irungu Mathathi (10,000m), Eunice Jepkorir (3,000m steeplechase) and Priscah Jepleting (5,000m).

Kenya’s first appearance at the inaugural championships in Helsinki in 1983 was not worth celebrating as they left the Finnish capital without a medal.

Four years later in Rome, Kenya finished in fourth position with three gold medals and in Tokyo '91, Kenya swept the middle and long distance races to end up with four gold, three silver and one bronze and finish fourth behind Russia, USA and Germany.

In 1993 in Stuttgart, the country clinched three gold, three silver and four bronze finishing fifth after USA, Russia, Germany and Britain.

However, in Gothenburg (1995) Kenya dipped to ninth with two gold, one silver and three bronze medals. Athens '97 earned the country three gold, two silver and two bronze medals in fourth place with the Seville championships in 1999 landing Kenya a 12th place finish with one gold, four silver and one bronze.

But in the 2001 edition in Edmonton, Kenya had three gold, three silver and two bronze medals to settle for the third and two years later in Paris, another fourth place was recorded after Russia, United States and France with two gold, one silver and one bronze.

Two years ago in Helsinki, Kenya blew cold again with just the one gold medal, two silver and four bronze.

Athletics Kenya secretary general David Okeyo: It’s a sign of better things to come.