The Star (Nairobi)

31 July 2012

Kenya: Mercy Fired Up

KENYA'S women's 3,000m steeplechase squad are keen to emulate their male counterparts at this year's London Olympic Games.

Africa 3,000m SC champion Mercy Njoroge said they have been trailing their male counterparts and it's now time for them to make the impact. Njoroge ventured in steeplechase in 2004 and won gold at the African Championships in Porto Novo last month. Njoroge, also the 2010 Commonwealth Games 3,000m steeplechase silver medallist, said she is confident of finishing on the podium in London this time round.

"After winning gold in Benin last month, I hope to go all the way at the London Olympics and do the country proud," she added. She said the women steeplechasers have lived in the shadow of their men counterparts for long and hope to break the trend in the ongoing London Games. "We have gone for several events in the last couple of years and only the men seem to keep the steeplechase fire burning. This time round we want to make a change," she added. Njoroge said they have been working on speed work and endurance in the last three weeks and expressed confidence that she is up to the challenge.

"The morale and confidence is high in the team and the coaches have been working with us on how to improve our speed and endurance at the games," added Njoroge. In Beijing Olympics, Eunice Jepkorir came close to victory but settled for silver, behind Russia's Gulnara Samitova-Galkina world record effort of 9:01.59 when women steeplechase made its debut at the Olympics. Njoroge said she will take heart from Jepkorir's performance to complete the job in London by taking gold. "We saw what Jepkorir did in Beijing. She set the pace for us and we hope to take her performance to the next level," she added.

Njoroge said she also has a point to prove after coming close to victory in the 2010 Commonwealth Games only to lose to compatriot Milcah Chemos after a slip-up. " I was disappointed because I was leading and I watched as a gold medal was pulled off under my nose. However, that's history and I must concentrate on what is ahead at the London Olympics," she noted. Njoroge expects opposition to come from the Russians who have set the pace in the race since it was introduced in 2004. They include-Gulanara Galkina, Yekaterina Volkara and Yaliya Zarudneva.

"The Russians are our biggest threat but I believe we are closing the gap on them. This time round, we are psyched up to spring a surprise on them," added Njoroge. She said she is working on her water jump technique which has been her weak point in the past competitions . "At the Commonwealth Games, I made two mistakes on the water jump and this really wasted me. I have since rectified this," she added. The Kenya Defence soldier said teamwork will be critical as she runs alongside world 3,000 steeplechase bronze medallist Milcah Chemos and Lydia Chebet. "We have trained together and spoken about the race.

We know what to expect and we will run as a team," he added. Njoroge said the weather is likely to favour them considering they are training under similar conditions. "We have trained in very cold weather and we have been told to expect similar kind of conditions in London." Head coach Julius Kirwa said he expects the women steeplechasers to dominate the podium.

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