World marathon record holder Henry Wanyoike has dropped the 5,000m event to concentrate on marathon at the London Paralympic Games next month.
Wanyoike, who is also triple Paralympics gold medallist, was initially enlisted run both marathon and 5,000m race, in which he won bronze in Beijing four years ago.
Wanyoike's entry into the marathon will mark the country's debut in the event at the Paralympics and he remains confident he can bring home the elusive gold. "Nobody has ever ventured into the Paralympics marathon race and we believe our entry (alongside guide...) means better things for Kenya," said Wanyoike. "Nobody has ever shown his interest in the Paralympics marathon before and we feel this is a great opportunity for all of us."
"Our preparations have been perfect and now that we have dropped the 5,000m, we feel we are in a better position to win the gold." Wanyoike quit the shorter race to create room for the other qualifiers, whom he said need a chance to showcase their talent at the world stage. They include Emmanuel Cheruiyot-T11 (1500m and 5000m), Francis Thuo-T11 (5000m), and Henry Kirwa -T12 (1500m and 5000m). "I don't get distracted by the fact that this will be my debut. I just feel focused and ready to run my race since my body is in good shape."
"We know competition will be tough. We have traveled all over the world and the athletes there have been so busy in their training for over two years," he observed. He said he is not even aware of the start list and he is happy that way since he wants to meet his opponents on the road. "It doesn't matter how rich the field is but how one finishes at the end of it all ," he observed.
By virtue of being the world record holder at 2:31:31 set at the 2005 Hamburg Marathon, Wanyoike remains the race favourite. His other achievements include- 10,000m win at the 2002 IPC Athletics World Championships, two gold medals (5,000m, 10,000m) at the 2004 Athens Paralympics Games, world record victory of 1:1026 at the Hong Kong Marathon in 2004, silver (10,000m) in the 2006 IPC Athletics World Championships and bronze (5,000m) at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics Games.
Meanwhile, National Paralympics coach Francis Kibuchi has exuded confidence that the London-bound Kenya Paralympics team will surpass their performance at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games four years ago. The country scooped nine medals including five gold, three silver and 1 bronze.
Speaking before their departure for London last night, Kibuchi said their preparations are going as planned and sees no reasons why they shouldn't do well. "We have picked some experience from the Olympics that concluded in London yesterday (Sunday) and hope this will help us a lot. God willing, we will do better than our counterparts."
"God has been with us at the All Africa Games, in Christchurch (Worlds) and Beijing and we hope that even this time, we will bring our traditional 10 plus medals if not better," observed Kibuchi. "As usual, we expect the challenge of weather and training venue. Being in a limited place (London) where there is competition for space means we might not have enough time for our training," he said. "We have been having a lot of space here (Kasarani) all by ourselves but in London, we expect several more teams."