Camp early for 10,000m Olympics gold, advises Letting

Jacob Iciain Nairobi

Veteran athletics coach David Letting has called upon Athletics Kenya and the National Olympics Committee, to co-opt expert tacticians and set up a camp specifically for athletes eyeing to fly Kenya’s flag in 10,000m at the Tokyo Olympics.

Letting says the only way to reclaim the distances’ gold last won 53 years ago, is commencing preps for select athletes as early as now ahead of the July-August global fiesta.

Kenya’s last Olympics gold medal in the distance was won by the late Naftali Temu at the 1968 edition, held in Mexico city, and Letting insists the routine preparations will give the same  disappointing results.

“I’m happy that discussion has gathered momentum among stakeholders, what remains is action. We are waiting to be invited as tacticians, all of us, so that we discuss the way to implement it. I feel we should have started by now.

“We don’t have to wait until June to do the trials. If we have selected athletes in camp with all the focus on that medal by the end of January, we can for sure win it,” said Letting.

A confident Letting insisted the problem has never been about talent when Kenya’s rivals have been winning, but preparations.

“We prepare yes, but we do exhaust the available room to get the best. We have good athletes capable of winning that gold. If Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei who is now doing so well in the distance trains here in Kenya, why should our own born and bred here fail?”

Cheptegei, the 10,000m champion, is among terrific rivals Kenyans will have to beat if the jinx is to be broken in Tokyo.

In 2020, the 10,000m world champion set world records in 5,000m, 10,000m and 5km in Monaco, Valencia and Monaco respectively clocking 12:35.36, 26:11.00 and 12:51 in that order.

And, after uninspiring attempts in the marathon, reigning champion of the 25 laps race Mo Farah of Great Britain is set to return to the track for the Tokyo games, another world beater to strategise for among many.

Coaches David Letting (left) and David Chirchir watch over as the steeplechase water barrier starts getting filled up at Kipchoge Keino Stadium. PHOTO/Charity Wanja
Coaches David Letting (left) and David Chirchir watch over as the steeplechase water barrier starts getting filled up at Kipchoge Keino Stadium. PHOTO/Charity Wanja

Charles Mneria who is fresh from winning the Kenya Prisons 10,000m title expects to be part of Team Kenya to Tokyo, and is hopeful the jinx can be broken this year.

“Looking at how some of our athletes have fared last year there is a big possibility to finally reclaim the 10,000m gold. If the likes of Rhonex Kiprutto and Kibiwott Kandie sustain the level they exhibited last season then I believe they are good to go. I want to race with them because they have already tested their level. I want to be in the team, and I’ll know where I am once we have the trials…,” he offered.

Kipruto won the 2018 10,000m World Under-20 gold, and went on to win the 2019 bronze in the Doha World Championships although he has already ventured into road races. The 21-year-old is tipped to be in Team Kenya for the distance, as Kandie is, having declared his intentions soon after setting a new Half Marathon record in Valencia December 2020.

“My focus now is on the Tokyo Olympics. I want to secure a ticket to Japan, and so I get straight to work for it. I’m confident I will do well,” he said, relishing the 57:32 new record – having chopped off almost 30 seconds off the previous one.

In Rio, Paul Tanui came close to winning the gold but lost it to Farah, coming in second at 27:05.64, just 17 micro-seconds behind him.

It is the small gaps that Letting says with a better strategy and preparations, can be filled towards the postponed Tokyo games.

“If you throw a stone in a group of 10 where our athletes are, you are likely to hit a potential world champion. They are there, we just have to up our game in producing the best out of them,” he concluded.