Kenya: Kipchoge Discusses Track Races as Mo Farah Lands in Iten

World marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge (file photo).
17 January 2020

Despite the country's embarrassment of talent in distance running, it's a bizarre fact that Kenya has won the Olympic gold medal only once each in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres races.

Naftali Temu minted the sole gold in the longer distance way back at the Mexico Olympics in 1968, clocking 29 minutes, 27.4 seconds to relegate Ethiopia's Mamo Wolde and Tunisian Mohamed Gammoudi to the smaller medals.

In the 5,000m, John Ngugi accounts for Kenya's lone Olympic gold in the distance, his victory (13:11.70) at the 1988 Seoul Games beating Germans (West and East, respectively) Deiter Baumann and Hansjorg Kunze to the top prize. And these eerie statistics worry Olympic marathon champion and world record holder Eliud Kipchoge who is concerned that young Kenyan runners are showing no respect for track and field and, instead, are in too much of a hurry to hit the roads.

Kipchoge has called on more focus on the track races, his appeal coming as Great Britain's multiple world and Olympic track champion Mo Farah launches his final pre-season training in Iten, keen on defending his Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m double at the Tokyo Games this summer.

"Sir Mo" arrived in the Elgeyo-Marakwet County capital earlier this week to spruce himself up for a return to the track after briefly "hibernating" in the marathon where he has an impressive personal best time of 2:05:11 to show, eked out of the 2018 Chicago Marathon.

"It's good for (Kenyan) athletes to be more serious on the track, and specifically in the 5,000m and 10,000m," Kipchoge told Nation Sport in an exclusive, mid-week interview at his NN Running Team/ Global Sports Communication training camp in Kaptagat.

"I know the 5,000m and 10,000m have value, but the problem is most athletes in Kenya don't see the value in track and field, and that's why everyone is running towards the road, as if the 5,000m and 10,000m don't have value," said Kipchoge, himself gold medallist in the 5,000m at the 2003 Paris World Championships. Kipchoge, with a PB of 12:46.53, has run 15 sub 13-minute 5,000m races and accounts for eight of the 100 fastest ever times over the distance.

The only Kenyan to have run faster than him over the distance is Daniel Komen (12:39.74), with Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele holding the race's world record at 12:37.35.

With Farah now back on the track, athletics analysts predict a difficult time for Kenya at the Tokyo Olympic Games whose track and field programme runs from July 31 to August 9 at the brand new Olympic Stadium.

Farah boasts four Olympic gold medals after his 5,000m/10,000m double at the 2012 and 2016 Games, and his collection also includes six World Championships gold medals over the two distances.

"All in all, if they internalise the glory they will be getting in the 5,000m and 10,000m, then, automatically, Kenyans will start winning," added Kipchoge who won silver and bronze medals at the 2004 (Athens) and 2008 (Beijing) Olympic Games, respectively.

Kipchoge, the first man to run the marathon in under two hours, is, meanwhile, also optimistic that a Kenyan leg of the newly-formed, second-tier World Athletics Continental Tour will help spur track running in Kenya.

A SPORTING COUNTRY

Nairobi has put in a strong bid to be included in this year's inaugural, 10-meet Continental Tour with the government last week sending a financial guarantee to World Athletics' Monaco headquarters.

"It will be really important because Kenya has been a sporting country and it has been a big contributor to world athletics," Kipchoge reacted.

"This international meeting coming to Kenya is like its coming to the home of sport.

"It's really going to be good for all of the fans to enjoy what they have been enjoying only on television and on YouTube," he added.

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