The Star (Nairobi)

15 August 2013

Kenya: Impressed Hosts Now Want Kenyans to Run As Russians

The Russian government is keen to naturalise Kenya and Ethiopian long distance runners so they can compete as Russians in future international races.

According to a local newspaper, Metro, the country is thinking of converting the nationality of a few Kenyans and Ethiopians to represent Russia in future.

The feeling of the Russian government , it appears, is that they have a very good crop of field event atheletes so now they want to blend this with a little long and mid distance running talent.

The newspaper reported the Russian government as planning to initiate talks with Kenyan and Ethiopian counterparts in as far as the project is concerned.

Kenyan ambassador Paul Kurgat confirmed he was aware of the issue but nothing has been communicated yet.

He asked Athletics Kenya chairman Isaiah Kiplagat to think about the issue and what it means for Kenya.

"The truth of the matter is that this issue is real hence we need to give it serious thought," he said.

Kiplagat, however, asked the ambassador to initiate talks with the Russian government to have Kenyan coaches especially field and sprints coaches to train in Russia -a suggestion the ambassador promised to take up.

"With the kind of facilities the Russians have, I am sure our coaches can gain a lot from this end," he noted.

"We want to take athletics to the next level hence the need to work with countries like Russia," he said.

If the move comes to pass, Russia will follow in the footsteps of Qatar and Bahrain who in 2,000 raided training camps in Eldoret handing Kenyan runners Middle Eastern citizenships.

One of the biggest catches for Qatar was Stephen Cherono the current 3,000m steeplechase world record holder now carrying the Arabic name Saif Saeed Shaheen.

Also among the defectors was Yusuf Saad Kamel, formerly Gregory Meritei Konchellah, the son of twice world 800 m champion Billy Konchellah. The Ethiopian runners are also running for different countries around the globe including top 1,500m runner Abeba Aregawi who now competes for Sweden.

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