NAIROBI, Kenya, July 30 – “Everyone has trained well, the coaches have done their part and we are happy since we did not have any problem this time, no injuries, the spirit is high and we have a lot of hope we are going to break the Beijing record in terms of medal tally.”
That is the statement of intent the world record holder, world champion and Team Kenya captain, David Lekuta Rudisha sent out to rivals as he led the charged bulk of the distance running squad to board their flight for London Olympics on Monday night.
The decorated collection of Olympics, world, Commonwealth and African medallists departed with the surging weight of expectation on their shoulders as the chief architects of Olympics glory the country so craves as they left Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for their Kenya Airways flight to London’s Heathrow.
Although the fanfare that greeted the exit of the first contingent to Bristol at the same airport on June 3 was missing, including the lack of any Government official to send the team off, the athletes passed through the Terminal 2 security scanner brimming with enthusiasm, the anxiety of surpassing the six gold, four silver and four bronze visibly absent.
“To be a captain is not easy because we have challenges from time to time. I want to thank the team because they have been very discipline, they have been doing what they have to do and they have no issues since most of them are elite athletes who understand what to do and everything is okay,” Rudisha who will be featuring in his first Olympics appraised his charges.
Their road to London has not been a bed of roses, with the distance athletes standing up to and prevailing upon the National Olympics Committee of Kenya to drop plans to send them to Bristol three weeks before the official start of London 2012.
But as he rose to address the team at their last training camp meeting at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani earlier in the evening, the world champion who holds the 1:41.01 standard in 800m running prevailed upon his teammates to make history.
Olympics women 800m gold medallist and assistant skipper, Pamela Jelimo, echoed her captain adding, “I know there is great pressure. We are going to do our best, we have done a lot as a team, we’ve done great things in our training that has gone well and we hope the fruits will be there in London.”
“For me it is an honour to head the team to an Olympics and for sure, it is pressure because being an assistant captain means a lot to me. I have to do a lot because my work as an athlete remains a priority,” the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympics medal on the track when she tore up the field in Beijing added.
All around, the cream of distance running, the men looking dapper in dark suits, purple shirts and red ties (at least those who abided by the prescribed dress code) with their female counterparts dazzling in red attire, filed past exuding confidence they would successfully pursue history and etch their names on the nation’s folklore when the dust settles on the 30th Olympiad on August 12.
“I’m in great shape for the big event. It is only to go and compete on Friday and I know it is not an easy task but we shall tackle it. I know on Friday night, we shall celebrate in Kenya and with my teammates Sally Kipyego, Caroline Chepkirui and Viola (Kibiwott) we shall do our best.
“This is my year and I have to do my best and Kenyans should pray for us,” double women 5000m and 10000m world champion, Vivian Cheruiyot, who will take to the London Olympic Stadium on Friday for the longer race in her bid to ascend to uncharted waters as the first from her nation to bag two medals at the Games charged.
“I’m going like any other athlete with an intention of bringing home the gold medal. I got to try my best and I have the pressure to get gold but I will do my best to defend my title. I’m not promising anything but I will do my best,” Olympics men 1500m titleholder, Asbel Kiprop underlined.
“Probably, we are the best in the world at the moment and if we all sail to the finals we are likely to bring all the medals and if the weather will be nice, we shall break the championship record,” the world champion added alluding to his teammates in Kenya’s imposing Metric Mile line-up that includes Commonwealth titleholder, Silas Kiplagat and Diamond League trophy winner, Nixon Chepseba, the three fastest 1500m runners this year.
“I feel good and I pray God to give me strength and good health to run that day. Sunday’s race will be very fast and I will do my best to run to my maximum and work with the team to make sure we come with gold.
“If it will be possible, it is also our prayer to return with all the medals and improve on Catherine Ndereba who won two silver medals at the Olympics,” the fastest female marathoner in recent times and two-time London Marathon champion asserted.
World Indoor women 3000m champion, Helen Obiri, who is also debuting at the Olympics stuck to the script offering, “I’m going to try my best. In 1500m the gold is in Kenya and we want to do our best with Faith and Sum to bring something good from London.”
She will compete alongside fellow Olympics first timers, world junior champion, Faith Chepng’etich and Eunice Sum, a finalist at Daegu Worlds who stepped up from 800m this year.
“First, I will fight to be in the finals and then fight to be at the podium,” Sum intoned.
“I’m really hoping that I will do my best and if all goes well, I wish to return to the podium. What I can tell my fellow athletes is to have confidence, be ready to face any challenge and accept the outcome,” Olympics silver medallist in women 800m, Janeth Jepkosgei, who has won her nation 14 medals in a career spanning over a decade stressed.
Head coach, Julius Kirwa, who led the technical bench in Beijing, radiated his team’s enthusiasm on their mission to conquer and win the hearts in London.
“Yes, they will (beat Beijing)! The athletes are focused on competition. Each and every athlete is ready to run and bring Kenyans something good. For sure, this is a good team and we are not under pressure.
“We have done well in training and when we go there we shall communicate with the athletes and give them the support they need,” the veteran tactician assured.
“From 800m to the marathon, there is either an Olympics champion, a world champion, a Commonwealth champion or an African champion. We have no problem with the material we have and the discipline has been high and this is the best team ever.
“We must bring back a better performance than the 14 medals and God willing, we shall have big celebrations when we return. Anything up to 20 medals is possible,” Team Manager, Joseph Kinyua, who was also in charge in China, summed the bullish mood that enveloped the squad.
Only six athletes were left behind, the men 5000m and their marathon teammates and they are set to depart on Saturday to join their counterparts. By then, Kenya hopes to have opened her medal account in track and field during Friday’s women 10000m final.