Kenyans Awed by Daegu Ahead of IAAF World Championships
By Benson Kamary
Associate Editor & Writer
As the world’s biggest athletics event commences this weekend in Daegu, athletes and officials from Africa’s athletics powerhouse, Kenya, appear to be in high spirit ready to face their world’s finest counterparts. Kenya is known to have the highest concentration of Olympians in the world and was ranked third in the previous IAAF championships in Berlin, Germany. Interestingly, Daegu City won the bid to host this year’s IAAF world championships during the IAAF Congress held in 2007in Mombasa, a Kenyan coastal city. The city also hosted the IAAF Cross Country World Championships in the same year. And upon arriving in Korea after an exhausting 24 hours flight, the Kenyan team has given a positive nod to facilities in Daegu stadium describing it as first-class. A Kenyan Athletics official was recently quoted saying, “we are happy with the facilities here… The athletes’ rooms are spacious and the four-lane training track is very impressive. Not even the athletes’ villages at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and the 2008 Beijing Olympics can match these standards.” Though many Koreans associate Kenya with marathon and perhaps coffee or safari, Kenyan athletes will be showcasing their prowess beyond the legendary marathon aptitude. In middle and long distance races, for instance, Kenya in deed has a team made of world-beating individuals. Of particular interest will be 800 metres where the world’s record holder, David Rudisha, will be seeking to defend his record of 1:41:09. He broke the record during the last IAAF meeting in Berlin. The two-lap race is habitually dubbed as ‘the Kenyan race’ since Kenyans have topped its scorecard at the IAAF World Championships since its inaugural 1983. This is why Rudisha and his team-mates will be eying for a repeat of 2010 Africa Senior Championships where three Kenyans swept the podium with a 1-2-3 win. Other races where Kenyans are expected to reign in include 1,500 meters, 3,000 meters steeplechase, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters. In men’s marathon, the team is looking strong having picked athletes with the best times of the season. Nevertheless, Kenya’s supremacy in long distance races faces a significant challenge from archrivals Ethiopians, Moroccans and some of the Kenyan born runners now competing for Qatar or Bahrain. In broad-spectrum, Daegu City will be hosting a bigger IAAF championship with more than 2,000 athletes from over 200 national teams indicating a growing interest in world athletic competitions. Most athletes who arrived earlier in the week were excited by Koreans’ hospitality, efficiency, organization and cleanliness of the athletes’ village. No doubt they hope that these standards will be maintained to the end of the games. Equally excited are Kenyans in Korea who will be holding their breaths to see what their team which the head coach describes as “the finest squad ever assembled for a world championships event,” will have to offer at the end of the championships. And, by the way, Kenya’s squad of 77 athletes currently in Daegu is the biggest the country has ever sent to any world championships. May the game begin!
|Kenya's David Rudisha, the world’s record holder in 800 meters|
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Benson Kamary, professor of Tongmyong University in Pusan, serves as an Associate Editor & Writer for The Seoul Times. Based in Busan, South Korea, the Kenyan professor also serves as chairman of Kenya Community in Korea (KCK). He can be reached at email@example.com