Jason and his lankier brother, David Dunford will for the second Olympic Games running, be the face of Kenya in the pool as they return to slash their way into hitherto uncharted waters by fishing a first medal in swimming.
Since the country first entered the quadrennial showpiece in 1956, boxing is the only other sport besides athletics that has won Kenya medals at the Olympics but with Commonwealth champion Jason and his African titleholder David, hope springs eternal the medal net could be cast wider to include aquatics.
When the buzzer goes to signal the start of pool action at the Aquatic Centre in London on Saturday, the siblings who will dive for honours in the 50m and 100m freestyle and butterfly events have the ability to spark the medal rush for a country itching to top the record setting six gold, four silver and four bronze medals from Beijing.
At the Commonwealth Games in Delhi two years ago, Jason made history when he became the first Kenyan to reel in gold from the pool at the event when he swam 23.35 for the top medal in the 50m butterfly.
This reporter was privileged to be pool side when his head emerged from the water in victory and no fitting words can describe the raw joy in his as well as his family’s faces- father Martin and mom Geraldine- who were also present.
Speaking in fluent Swahili, Jason said at the time, “I’m so proud of doing this for my country. I woke up feeling great today and I knew I had it, but when it happened, it still came as a surprise.”
Since then, Jason has added gold medals in the 50 and 100m butterfly, silvers in the 50m backstroke, 100m freestyle and 200m butterfly and a bronze in the 50m freestyle at the All Africa Games to his bulging collection alongside qualifying for his second Olympics.
Ahead of London 2012, the 25-year-old believes he is hitting the right form to continue his history breaking run in Kenya’s swimming.
“I’m feeling in good shape and it becomes easier since you can focus. There was a period in March when I was not hitting the times I’m supposed to be hitting. I was really broken down and it was a tough period.
“I was losing a bit of confidence but the last two months have been solid and I’ve been very happy with how things have gone,” Jason told 411MixTV in London.
The Delhi gold winner who arrived in Bristol on July 9 together with his brother before they travelled to the Olympics Village a week later finished fifth (51.47) in the 100m freestyle final at the previous edition in Beijing having briefly set the Games record in his main event, the 100 metre butterfly when he sprinted to 51.14 in qualifying to the semis.
His record did not last long; just a few minutes later Milorad Cavić of Serbia recorded 50.76, followed by two other swimmers who beat Jason’s time.
The younger David, 23, competed in Beijing in the 50 metres freestyle race, finishing 20th overall in heats and missing the semi finals by only 0.12 seconds. He gained passage to London via outside selection route but he is bullish about his prospects.
“I’m getting a really good feel for the water. I’m looking forward to the Games and I graduated with my Masters in June so that means there have been periods I have been overstretched, balancing my studies and swimming.
“Right now, I have nothing else on my mind since I came to Europe for a month and a half after finishing for my preparations and I’ve been wholly focused on the Games and it has been good form my preparations,” the African and All Africa Games champion as well as a semi finalist at the World Championships asserted.
“I broke the Olympics record in Beijing and finished fifth in the 100m butterfly final and my performance inspired the Kenyan team to record their best haul ever at the Games.
“I hope to repeat what I did in Delhi where I won the country’s first gold in London and I have taken a break in my studies to fully focus on training for the Olympics,” elder Jason told Capital Sport last year.
There is no doubt the gifted Dunford brothers are capable of firing the starting gun to Kenya’s gold rush in London 2012.