Mike Shelley, photo by PhotoRun.net
In this column, Justin Lagat points out a few things about viewing the Commonwealth games from Kenya.
Glasgow Men’s Marathon results not reflective of the WMM standings, by Justin Lagat
Michael Shelly of Australia, who won a silver medal at the 2010 Delhi Games, is now the 2014 Commonwealth champion after winning the marathon race in 2:11.15. Kenya’s Stephen Chemlany won the silver medal in 2:11.58 while Uganda’s Abraham Kiplimo won the bronze in 2:12.23. John Kelai, who was the defending champion, finished in 5th position.
None of the medalists at the men’s marathon event in the 2014 Commonwealth Games was among the top contenders for the WMM (world major marathon) series title. It is not that the WMM contenders are from non-Commonwealth nations. Save for Ethiopians and US’s Meb Keflezighi, the rest are from the Commonwealth nations and are mostly Kenyans.
Of all the top ten men on the WMM leader board, five are Kenyans, which should have automatically translated to Kenyans dominating the marathon race in Glasgow. It should have been expected that with the absence of Ethiopians, who also are the second majority in the WMM leaders, Kenyans should have at least won two medals on the podium here. But, to some extent, it was encouraging that all the three athletes from Kenya finished in the top six positions and the only other country who had three athletes in top ten positions was Uganda.
Of late, there has been a tendency of the selection process not being in favor of the current top athletes in Kenya. In 2012, I spoke with Geoffrey Mutai, the man with marathon’s fastest time, who had been named in the provisional team for the London Olympic marathon only to be left out with a few days to the Olympics and he told me how it affected him.
First of all, when an athlete is focusing on one major marathon, it is not likely that he is going to perform well in another one. Marathon is not like a middle distance event which one can run well in two consecutive weeks. For Mutai, when he lost his chance to go and run in London, that year was affected for him. It was too late for him to start focusing his training for another marathon before the year ended. Although he later ran an impressive time of 2:04.15 at the Berlin Marathon that year, no one knows how fast he would have run had he had enough time to focus fully on that race.
From the London Olympics through the Moscow world championships up to the present Glasgow Commonwealth Games, men that have always been selected to represent the country in the marathon events there have always not been those that are on top of the world. The question has always been, are Kenyan marathon runners not patriotic enough? Or, is the selection process to be blamed? Are Kenyans just good in major city marathons, but poor in championship races?
Today, as I roamed around trying to find a place to watch these Kenyan athletes trying to bring glory to their country, a thought struck me. There was no coverage of the event by the state run KBC (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation). Pay channels that were showing the Glasgow event were the most expensive and even the local hotels which had pay TV channels were not able to show the marathon where I was, and I had to watch live streaming of the event through the internet.
As I write this article, the KBC is showing a live coverage of another local sporting event which is not as significant as the Glasgow Games. This makes me wonder how much these athletes are valued if the state owned broadcaster finds it too expensive to show live coverage of them winning the gold medals for Kenya.