12 April 2018

Kenya: Uganda's Rise in Athletics Cause for Kenya to Worry Deeply

Photo: @UgTourismBoard/Twitter
Joshua Cheptegei after his 5 000m victory at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Irrespective of our performance in athletics here in Gold Coast, we must return home knowing we have a major "Opponent" just next door and it is no longer business as usual. I am talking about Uganda who disoriented us in both men 5,000m and women's 10,000m to take both gold medals through Joshua Cheptigei and Stella Chesang respectively.

This is a bad sign especially when we know that Ethiopians are also not far away. Truth be told, our long distance field is slowly shrinking fast ostensibly due to road races with Geoffrey Kamworor and Bedan Karoki the latest casualties.

In the women's category, Olympic 5,000m champion and 10,000m silver medallist Vivian Cheruiyot also decided a year ago that she has had enough of track running after over one and a half decades of top performance.

The list is long. Many promising stars in long distance are switching to marathon even before they settle on track.

This is the time to start planning or rather grooming youngsters for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics if we are to stop the "enemy."

Just when we were thinking that Briton Mo Farah had paved way for us by shifting to the roads, Ugandans are threatening to stage a coup; that is if they have not done that already.

It is a complicated situation for Kenya in the mid and long distance and if we don't watch out, we will soon be in for a rude shock.

Coaches must play a leading role not only in guiding the athletes but also make them understand why track is the way to go before one ventures into marathon.

Boys and girls, let us not be guided by monetary greed because this is bound to have repercussions if not boomerang in your faces. Road racing was previously meant for athletes who had served on track and were headed into retirement.

Ironically, nowadays, we have boys and girls in their early 20s venturing into marathon. This is just unacceptable! We must take up from the likes of former marathon record holder Paul Tergat and Eliud Kipchoge who had very successful stints on track before moving to marathon.

You will agree with me that because of the smooth transition, Kipchoge is one of the most refined marathoners currently and Tergat, who is the president of Nock, went on to break the world record.

The girls too have living examples in Vivian Cheruiyot, Tegla Loroupe and Catherine Ndereba. There are no short cuts in athletics and those who have tried to take that route are now paying the price. Most of them have ended up miserably and it's only fair that one takes the stairs.

The author, Athletics Kenya's Nairobi branch chairman, is also head of Kenya's team to the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

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