Kenya selects provisional squad of 52 for Rio
“Rio, here we come!” was the simple message Beijing 2008 and three-time world medallist wrote on his Facebook page after his place in the 2016 Summer Games was confirmed by selectors following the Trials in Eldoret in a telling message to the world that Kenya means business with 52 named Friday in the provisional Olympics team.
Athletics Kenya and National Olympics Committee-Kenya selectors settled on an initial squad of 31 men and 19 women comprised of sprinters, hurdlers, mid and long distance, marathon and field athletes.
Four-time world champion, Vivian Cheruiyot and two-time World Half marathon winner, Geoffrey Kamworor were the famous named given the options to double in Brazil.
Others who have a chance to go for two events include women 800m sensation, Margaret Nyairera and African women 400m Hurdles silver medallist, Maureen Jelagat who are lined up to compete in the 400m.
Nyairera, the reigning world junior champion who delivered perhaps the signature performance at the two-day Trial when she blasted to the staggering 1:58.27 victory in the women two-lap race that is the second fastest on Kenyan soil.
The team is expected to report to camp on Monday with the track and field athletes congregating at the Dr. Kipchoge Keino High Performance Training Centre and the marathoners in Kapsabet.
Selection of the squad that aims at beating their London 2012 tally of two gold, four silver and five bronze where 47 athletes- 27 men and 20 women- took part capped a seismic two-days of action at the ‘City of Champions’ that hosted the Trials for the first time.
Organisers had to lock gates on Day 2 on Friday after the crowd overwhelmed the facility designed for 5000 that was packed to the rafters with the athletes motivated by their spouses, children, relatives and friends watching them strut their stuff.
Deputy President, William Ruto, caused a stir when his motorcade was allowed inside the track that had been set-up for the men 400m Hurdles finals and after a short delay, he was prevailed to walk to the VIP stand as his vehicles left for the race to start.
He however, did not witness surprise Beijing 2015 world champion, Nicholas Bett, who was exempted from the race for personal reasons. His twin brother, Aron Koech then took victory arm-in-arm with African champion, Boniface Mucheru as the three made the Rio team.
The watching crowd was fiercely royal to their home favourites and did not shy from showing their disapproval when 2014 World Indoor and Commonwealth champion, Caleb Mwangangi won the men 5000m Trial on Thursday and a day later, forced Nyairera to cut her victory routine short when they waved her celebrations off.
This was after she stunned local star, Eunice Sum to clinch the Rio ticket ahead of the 2013 Moscow World Champion who has endured an indifferent season.
Kiprop, Cheruiyot, Rudisha and ‘Baba Yao’ Ezekiel Kemboi, the steeplechase king received the biggest acclaim.
As is the norm, some famous names will be watching the Olympics from home after being tossed to the Rio 2016 recycle bin.
“Congratulations to my 1500m teammates those make the team wish you all the best Asbel Kiprop, Eli Manangoi Real and Kwemoi Ronald and all Kenya team,” Commonwealth champion, James Magut wrote after being forced down to fifth and out of the Brazil squad.
There was heavy presence of local and international media underlying the importance of Kenya’s athletics at the global stage with Citizen TV, Radio Citizen and Chamgei FM among those that relayed live broadcasts.
Jostling for the best camera and interview positions among the press hounds was the norm with organisers having little space to set up a functioning media tribune.
The men and women’s Rugby Sevens teams were in attendance to get a feel of the competition at an event dubbed the ‘mini-Olympics’ as they prepare for their debut at the quadrennial global showpiece.
MEN: 200m: Calvin Nkanata, Mike Mukamba: 400m: Raymond Kibet, Alphas Kishoyan, Alex Sampao, Boniface Mweresa; 800m: Alfred Kipketer, Ferguson Rotich, David Rudisha; 1500m: Asbel Kiprop, Elijah Manangoi, Ronald Kwemoi; 5000m: Caleb Mwangangi, Isiah Kiplangat Koech. Geoffrey Kamworor; 10000m: Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor, Bedan Karoki, Paul Tanui, Charles Muneria; 400m Hurdles: Nicholas Bett, Boniface Mucheru, Aron Koech; 3000m steeplechase: Birmin Kipruto, Conselus Kipruto, Ezekiel Kemboi; Marathon: Eliud Kipchoge, Wesley Korir, Stanley Biwott; Javelin: Julius Yego; 20km Race walking: Samuel Gathimba, Simon Wachira; High Jump: Mathew Sawe
WOMEN: 400m: Margaret Nyairera, Maureen Jelagat; 800m: Margaret Nyairera, Eunice Sum, Winnie Chebet: 1500m: Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon, Nancy Chepkemoi, Viola Rotich Lagat; 5000: Vivian Cheruiyot, Helen Obiri, Mercy Cherono; 10,000m: Vivian Cheruiyot, Besty Saina Alice Aprot: 400mH: Maureen Jelagat; 3000m steeplechase: Hyvin Kiyeng, Beatrice Chepkoech, Lydia Rotich Chebet; Marathon: Jemima Sumgong, Visiline Jepkesho, Helen Kiprop: 20km Race walking: Grace Wanjiru