Fill gaps in athletics

The national athletics team had an excellent performance at the 45th World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, on Saturday.

Team Kenya once again topped the medal standings, improving its haul by one to11 medals—six gold, two silver and three bronze—from 10 (six gold, two silver and two bronze) from Bathurst, Australia, last year.

Particularly inspiring was the back-to-back victory by Beatrice Chebet in the senior women’s 10km race, where she led a Kenyan sweep of the first five places.

Other victories were by Samuel Kibathi in the men’s Under-20 and the mixed relay team and three team titles—in the senior men's and women’s and also men’s U-20 races.

But the success is also a call to Athletics Kenya to investigate the third successive senior men’s title miss as Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo retained the crown that his compatriot Joshua Cheptegei won for their country for the first time in 2019.

And, alarmingly, for the second time, Kenya failed to secure a medal in the women’s U-20 for the first time since 2015.

Discussion around the team’s performance is apt, only 155 days to the Paris Olympic Games.

Athletics has been Kenya’s sole Olympics medal provider since the 1988 Seoul Summer Games, which is expected in Paris. Notably, there was a drop at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics compared to the 2016 Rio Games—perhaps Kenya's best ever with 13 medals (six gold, six silver and one bronze). In Tokyo, it won 10 medals—four gold, four silver and two bronze.

Particularly disturbing is the continued drought in the men's 10,000 metres race, last won by a Kenyan in 1968, through Naftali Temu, and 5,000m, last won by Paul Ngugi in 1988.