Asbel Kiprop, 2012 London Olympics, photo by PhotoRun.net
Justin Lagat, our correspondent from Eldoret, Kenya, wrote this fascinating piece about concerns regarding the fortunes of the Kenyan team in the London Olympics, which were mixed. The Kenyans had some great performances, many of them woman, and some rough performances. The men in the 10,000 meters and the men in the 5,000 meters, as well as the 1,500 meters, had a rough time.
Times change. In my mind, the Kenyan athletes, and the Ethiopians, had no plans in either the 10,000 meters or the 5,000 meters. They played into Mo Farah's hands, whose tactics were quite similar to one Flying Finn, Lasse Viren, who won double victories in the 72 and 76 Olympics.
Now is the time to plan for Rio and wherever we will be in 2020...
A DESERVING WELCOME FOR TEAM KENYA
In contrast to the expectations of many who know so little about running and would have wished for them not to get any reception following their dismal performance at the Games, Kenya's Olympic team jetted back into the country on Wednesday morning and met a jubilant crowd consisting of relatives, friends and government officials that welcomed them happily at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). The critics should know that one doesn't just choose to be number one in a race in a field packed with professional athletes from all over the world, who have trained for at least five years, with each one of them aiming to win. Everything had to go well in the physical as well as the psychological preparations, which to my knowledge, did not go well for the Team Kenya.
Even if they failed to deliver the medals here, most of these athletes had just done that for the country in the previous years: We had former World Champions, Olympic Champions, Commonwealth Champions and African champions in the races that we failed to secure the medals this time around. It would not just be right to forget the glory these champions have earned and continue to bring to Kenya. Besides, the blame that is being tossed from Athletics Kenya's selection criteria to the National Olympic Committee of Kenya's neglect of athletes, to the national coaches' failure to give effective race tactics to athletes, and to the ministry of sports' taking joy riders to the Olympics instead of the athlete's coaches and doctors, it was inevitable from the beginning that the performance and the morale of the Kenyan athletes was bound to be affected.
The Prime Minister of Kenya spoke to the Kenyan press just after the games concerning the performance. He said, "we shall carry out a post mortem and see what other countries have done, that did better. You know, it is a competition and countries are investing more in facilities and more in training. Maybe, we can learn from other countries' experiences and improve more on our facilities and invest more in the athletes' welfare."
Talking of learning from other countries, I wonder whether Kenya should not start by comparing the reception of the Kenyan Team, which won a total of eleven medals, with that given to Uganda's Stephen Kiprotich, who won a sole medal for his country in the men's marathon. His was euphoric. He arrived at the Entebbe International Airport where he was given a heroic welcome and prison officers formed a guard of honor for him to inspect, thereafter traveling in a motorcade in a special car with a license plate that read "UG GOLD," as he waved to the cheering crowds who lined the streets to greet him as he was driven to the State House to have breakfast with the president. Not to mention the promotion he got and what his government undertook to do for him, his family, and the region he comes from.
In fact, the following day, Kenya's newspapers seemed to have given more of their space to Uganda's reception for Kiprotich than they gave to the returning Kenyans.
In some way, I feel that the victory of a Ugandan runner with a name tag: KIPROTICH on his chest should bring joy to Kenyans as well. After all, many of the fans who had lined the streets of London cheering this hero were actually waving Kenyan flags at him! You may have missed seeing that confusion, but just to compensate you for missing that one, go to Wikipedia.org and search for Silas Kiplagat of Kenya (the 1500m Common Wealth Champion) and you will find that they have used Uganda's 3000m steeple chase runner's, Benjamin Kiplagat, photograph for his profile picture! I did send a message to Wikipedia's facebook page sometime last month for someone to correct it and it appears no one seems to notice the difference. The guy in the red puma apparel is Benjamin; not Silas. This goes a long way in telling the relationship between Kenyan and Ugandan athletes and why I care less whether it is a Ugandan or a Kenyan that just won a race. By their names, they still carry the same message to the world as to who really own the distance running in the world; I am also as happy when Bernard Lagat of USA win.
Being an athlete, I feel for the Kenyan team, especially the men's marathon, who gave it their all in the scorching sun towards the finish as they tried to win a gold medal for the country. If anyone was more disappointed with the results, it is the athletes. They are the ones who needed the victory more than anyone else. It is a pity anyone should have negative feelings towards them, since they gave their best effort and they have won previous races and glory for Kenya. Regardless of their dismal performance, it is my opinion that Team Kenya should have been given a big state party upon their arrival back home. After all, it is not winning that is most important, but how well you represent the country and our athletes remain among the best in the world.