Kenya: Athletics Kenya Coach Kirwa Makes Prophesy That Will Surprise Many

Nairobi — Athletics Kenya (AK) head coach Julius Kirwa has predicted that sprints will soon overtake long-distance running as the most popular race in Kenya as far as athletics is concerned.

Kirwa said the bumper entry of sprinters at the recent AK Track and Field Weekend Meeting at Nyayo Stadium is evidence that there is a depth of talented sprinters across the country.

"Yes, I believe that sprints will one day overtake long-distance running, which has been our main area of dominance for many years. You can see from the last weekend meeting in Nairobi, there were close to 285 athletes competing in the men's 100m...that is around 29 heats. That's a huge improvement from the yesteryears and shows that something special is happening in the sprints," Kirwa said.

He continued: "We appreciate what is happening in the sprints. The fact that there are up to eight athletes who are clocking sub-10s shows that this race is growing. We saw what Omanyala and Imeta did at Nyayo (clocking a world lead and personal best respectively)...even if their records were not ratified, it goes to show that they are capable of much more."

The coach said that one of the challenges threatening Kenya's dominance in long-distance races is the tendency for upcoming athletes to shift to road races before maturing on track and field.

He bemoaned the existence of a select, few greedy coaches who register their athletes for road races across the world before these runners finesse their art and craft on the track.

"The truth is these coaches register their runners for road races before these athletes have had the chance to hone their skills on track. You find an athlete who has not competed for long at the junior level or even in 10,000m going for 10k races abroad and half marathons...just because of the lure of money," he said.

With the track and field season in Kenya having commenced a month ago in Kisumu, Kirwa said he has been impressed by what his eyes have seen so far.

He noted that the stiff competition witnessed in Kisumu - and subsequently in Nairobi - makes it easier for coaches to implement the training they have in mind for the athletes ahead of major athletics competitions worldwide.

"What I saw is that competition is very high. Every athlete was hungry for success and this makes it easier for us as coaches to work with them because they are in the right state of mind as far as training is concerned. It is now up to us to note the strong and weak areas so we can prepare well for upcoming competitions," the coach said.

The third leg of the weekend meeting is set for this Friday and Saturday in Thika and Kirwa expects more of the same.

"Of course, the difference is that at Nyayo there was a tartan track while in Thika, they will be running on murram. Nonetheless, we are going to provide starting blocks for the sprinters. Over 1200 athletes have registered so far and that goes to show the levels of enthusiasm among them," Kirwa said.

The deadline for registration elapsed on Wednesday (today).

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