What you need to know:
- With the form of Uganda’s world record holder Cheptegei and with Farah back on the track after a lukewarm marathon cameo, the work is surely cut out for AK tacticians to plot for the gold in Tokyo.
- This can only be achieved through a conference between athletes, their managers, coaches, the federation and our legends like Tanui, Tergat and Kamathi who’ve been there, done that.
- We are tired of waiting for this 10,000m gold!
This year marks the 20th year since Kenya last won a gold medal in the 10,000 metres at a major senior athletics competition.
The dynamics in the 25-lap race have conspired against Kenyan dominance, something that has pricked Athletics Kenya’s conscience and triggered them into strategy mode.
Last weekend, AK President Jackson Tuwei disclosed that his federation will identify probable medallists in the 10,000m and put them into camp early enough to prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games in July.
The bizarre, unenviable statistics have Charles Kamathi as the last Kenyan gold medallist over the distance at a major championship, a feat he achieved by outrunning Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie at the 2001 Edmonton World Championships.
Before him, only three other Kenyans had panned gold on the global stage, led by Naftali Temu who struck the first, and so far the only, Olympic gold in the 10,000m at the 1968 Mexico Games.
A cocktail of factors
Paul Kipkoech won Kenya’s first World Championships gold, running a championship record time of 27 minutes, 38.63 seconds in Rome in 1987.
Moses Tanui (27:38.74) retained the gold four years later in Rome, leading Richard Chelimo (27:39.41) in a Kenyan 1-2 finish with Morocco’s legend Khalid Skah (27:41.74) preventing a clean Kenyan sweep, taking bronze as Thomas Osano came in fourth in 27:53.66.
A cocktail of factors has led Kenya to degenerate into a pale shadow of its old self, principally the fact that the allure of road running cash has spirited talented track runners to the 10kms, half marathons and marathons.
Also, a dip in patriotism, lack of teamwork, allegiance to agents and shoe companies along with erratic coaching programmes have punctured Kenya’s resolve.
As I reflected on the dearth on 25-lap running in Kenya, I reached out to Kamathi, Tanui and the legendary Italian distance running coach and manager Gabrielle Rosa, popularly known as “Dr Rosa,” the man behind the rise of former 10,000m world record holder and double Olympic silver medallist Paul Tergat.
They all agreed on the multiplicity of factors that have affected our distance runners, with one reason standing out: Lack of teamwork!
“There are many factors that have led to our collapse, including lack of incentives on the track, selection problems in the Kenyan team and lack of teamwork,” Tanui told me yesterday.
“When I won in Tokyo, it was because of teamwork between myself, Chelimo and Osano. “Even with the late Paul Kipkoech, we use to plan races as a team, but these days there are too many interests from shoe companies, managers, etc, and athletes don’t run for Kenya as a team.”
Kamathi, who also spoke to me yesterday, concurred with his predecessor Tanui, adding that Kenyan coaches must look critically at tactics.
“We have good athletes and they have been doing well at these championships, but the problem is with the last lap,” Kamathi who won the last gold 20 years ago said yesterday.
“Coaches should look at how to tackle the last 400, 200 and 150 metres, just as Dr Rosa used to take us through in training.
“Putting athletes in camp early is one thing, but the tactics and techniques to be employed quite another. Coaches need to identify the problem areas and work on them effectively.” “Dr Rosa” explained to me yesterday that the 10,000 metres is a special race whose training pendulums between speed and endurance.
“Moses Tanui was fast and strong and that’s why he could defeat Khalid Skah who was a great athlete in 1991. Equally, Kamathi used speed and endurance to beat Gebrselassie in 2001,” the Italian legend said.
“If you want to beat these top athletes, like Mo Farah or Joshua Cheptegei, then the athletes must work together as a team.”
Achieved through a conference
Will it take another 20 years for Kenya to strike gold?
With the form of Uganda’s world record holder Cheptegei and with Farah back on the track after a lukewarm marathon cameo, the work is surely cut out for AK tacticians to plot for the gold in Tokyo.
This can only be achieved through a conference between athletes, their managers, coaches, the federation and our legends like Tanui, Tergat and Kamathi who’ve been there, done that.
We are tired of waiting for this 10,000m gold!