What you need to know:
- Decorated athlete tasked to deliver world cross title and elusive Olympic and world men’s 10,000 crown.
- Officials visit Team Kenya in residential camp at St Mark’s Kigari Teachers College in Embu.
A commander does not wager unless he is sure of the bet. That is excatly what Athletics Kenya President Lieutenant General (Rtd) Jack Tuwei did when he recently met vice-captain Kibiwott Kandie and members of Team Kenya for the World Athletics Cross Country Championships set for Bathurst, Australia on February 18.
“Let’s make a deal, and I will honour the promise I made to you,” Tuwei said as he shook hands with Kibiwott in front of other athletes and officials at St Mark’s Kigari Teachers College in Embu where the team is in residential camp.
“Remember my earlier conversation? You are capable of winning the world cross country title, but I want a gold medal from you in the 10,000 metres at the World Athletics Championships and at the Olympics Games.
“This is a man to man agreement,” said Tuwei, who wants Kenya to win the elusive men’s title while he is still in office.
Tuwei’s predecessors; Isaiah Kiplagat, Charles Mukora, Paul Boit — all deceased, and Prof Sam Ongeri served and left Athletics Kenya without it happening.
The 2023 World Athletics Championships will be held on August 19 -27 in Budapest, Hungary, while the 2024 Paris Games will be held July 26-August 11.
Kenya has never won an Olympic gold over the distance since the late Naftali Temu at the1968 Mexico Olympic Games.
And Charles Kamathi won Kenya’s last World Athletics Championships 10,000m title during the 2001 event held in Edmonton, Canada.
“You can do it,” Tuwei emphasised to Kandie.
Kibiwott is the second senior most athletes in the national team after former World Athletics Cross Country Championships winner Geoffrey Kamworor.
“I will sir,” replied military man Kandie with the mandatory salute.
Kandie is a natural leader who puts his charges’ interests ahead of his.
He sought to assure his teammates, especially the ones who are facing challenges with their visas, as he met the athletics chief and other senior officials in camp.
During the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games in England, Kibiwott won bronze in the 10,000m race after clocking 27 minutes;20.34 seconds (27:20.34), Ugandan Jacob Kiplimo won the race and another Kenyan, Daniel Simiu, was second.
Kandie, 27 is an experienced athlete. He set a new world record of 57 minutes 32 seconds at the Valencia Half Marathon in 2020 after chopping off almost 30 seconds on the previous record held by Kamworor.
He won a silver medal in the men's 2020 World Athletics Half Marathon Championships held in Gdynia, Poland in October 2020.
He is also a previous winner of the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon held in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates.
Kandie also won the Prague 21.1 km event at the Prague Half Marathon held in Prague, Czech Republic.
He will be using the World Athletics Cross Country Championships as early preparations for the track season; following the footpath of other great Kenyan athletes who did the same then going ahead to post impressive results on the track and road.
Such legends include John Ngugi, the 1988 World Athletics Cross Country Championships gold medallits, and the last Kenyan male athlete to win the 5 000m Olympic gold medallist; Paul Tergat (five- time World Cross Country Championships winner, 2002 junior World Athletics Cross Country Championships gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge, the late Paul Kipkoech (thrice World Athletics Cross Country Championships silver medallist and the 1987 10,000m World Athletics Championships gold medallist).
The legendary Tergat, who is the National Olympic Committee of Kenya President said that cross country is a tough race.
“Indeed, every sports competition is never easy and this is even tougher for cross country. Cross country does not have a standard course like the track and, therefore, no one may predict precisely how the next one will turn out to be,” said the former world marathon record holder.