Only Two Medals in Sopot: A View from Kenya, by Justin Lagat

Caleb Ndiku, photo by

Justin Lagat wrote this piece for RunBlogRun on the two medals that were won at the World Indoors, one by Caleb Ndiku. Here is how Justin Lagat saw Kenya's rough showing in Sopot, Poland: 

Only Two Medals for Kenya in Sopot

Kenyan athletes ended their IAAF world indoor outing in Poland by winning two medals for their beloved country; a gold and a silver. While congratulations should duly be due for the winners of these two medals, it should also be noted that the general performance was below what was expected of Kenya as a nation. If the 2012 Olympic outing was regarded as dismal and a committee formed to inquire as to what caused such a poor performance, then definitely some action ought to also be taken after the results from Sopot. From the fourth position it was at the 2012 championships in Istanbul, Kenya moved six steps backwards ending up in tenth position. There ought to be some explanation to this.

Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku saved Kenya on the final day of the championships from an outing that would have been worse. His run was fantastic, it showed a lot of patriotism in him and a strong determination to win the gold medal. To many Kenyan fans, he was not their best bet on those expected to win gold medals there. The greatest bets were Silas Kiplagat, Hellen Obiri and Augustine Choge.

However, by simply looking at his new hair style of red-dyed hair, I immediately knew that  Mwangangi was up to something great as he lined up for the 3000m finals. When the gun went off, he wasn't in any hurry to move to the front like his compatriot Augustine Choge who immediately hit the front and ensured that the pace that had started out rather slowly was increased and maintained that way. Caleb moved gradually from the back till he reached the front with about a kilometer to go. Securing a good position in lane one in the last stages of an indoor race is crucial, and it was as though caleb knew exactly that. He was able to hold on to the lane at the front making it hard for Bernard Lagat, who is well known for his great finishing speeds, to sprint past him. His win greatly saved Kenya from moving further down the list of countries in the medal counts. Augustine Choge who was the favorite of many Kenyans could only manage to finish 9th.
In the women 1500m, Hellen Obiri did her best too and won a silver medal for Kenya. Ethiopia's Genzebe Dibaba exhibited so much power in this event. She was in another class of her own while the three chasers; Hassan, Jamal and Obiri were competing for the silver and bronze medals.

Dibaba opened a big gap with two laps to go and the three chasers followed in another pack. Obiri then engaged an impressive finishing kick in the last 200m and was able to shake off Jamal and Hassan to settle for the silver medal. It was the best performance expected from her, given the tremendous form of Dibaba.

I know that there is bound to be some blame game in the next few weeks following this dismal performance by Kenya, and so far, there have been some indications that someone did not do his or her job well.

First, Viola Kibiwot had to pull out of the championships at the last minute because she found out too late that she had been entered in an event that she did not want to participate in. She is a 5000m specialist and it is somehow hard to understand why someone would leave her out of the 3000m event and bring her all the way down to the 1500m.

Secondly, I happened to meet Hellen Obiri's friend at a half marathon event in Nairobi  over the weekend who told me how they suffered and got stranded for a whole day at the airport with Obiri after they failed to get the right information regarding Obiri's flight.

She told me that Obiri expected to fly out of the country at 2pm and was at the airport earlier than that, only to be informed much later in the evening of her right time of flight. One would only wonder why such arrangements are not made ready and communicated to the athletes at least two weeks prior to their intended day of traveling.

For now, I take this opportunity to warmly congratulate Caleb Ndiku and Hellen Obiri for their great performances in Sopot, despite the inconveniences they may have encountered due to some laxity and late communications from some officials as they prepared for the championships.

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