NAIROBI, Kenya, August 17- It’s been a tough week for the revered Kenyan marathoners who despite bagging three of the six Olympics medals on offer, the pain of losing the desired gold to Ethiopia and Uganda still stings.
Parading arguably the most forceful men and women marathoners in London, Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich and Ethiopian Tiki Gelana broke into the Kenyan armoury and escaped with the much coveted top medals much to their surprise and consternation for the beaten rivals.
Two-time world champion, Abel Kirui and Priscah Jeptoo landed silver as London title holder; Wilson Kiprop came home for bronze in the men’s event, a healthy return nonetheless in spite of the Kenyan charges failure to fulfil their favourite roles.
They paid a steep price for poor tactics and ill planning as the country lost the men’s title won in Beijing by the late Samuel Wanjiru besides settling for a third successive silver in the corresponding women’s race.
“It was not what we expected but the competition was tough. For women, the last five kilometres, Mary Keitany and Priscah were waiting for each other to run together but the Ethiopian took advantage and went to win the race.
“For the men, it was a tough fight between the two Kenyans and the Ugandan but in the history of the marathon at the Olympics, we managed to get two medals and that is a first despite the fact that we did not win,” David Letting, the marathon coach held.
“What happened with Wilson is that there were so many corners and after 35K, he felt a strain on the hip and Abel took over. The Ugandan noticed they had slowed down and took off for the gold,” he furthered.
“As a team, we tried our best but we had the ability to do more. We never thought the Ugandan would come and take over at the final stages. Whatever the outcome, I represented my country with pride, I’m a two-time world champion and now I have silver in the Olympics.
“I promised Kenyans I would not let them down and I did not. In marathon running, you cannot use all the energy, we ran carefully so that we could finish in good positions. Our Ethiopian friends could not cope with the heat and dropped out,” Kirui, who ran 2:08:07 for the second medal last Sunday stated.
“It was a difficult assignment; I recall that I covered almost 3000Km in training to prepare for this race. The competition was world class and when David Rudisha broke the world record, it gave us a lot of hope but the weather kept changing,” the Berlin and Daegu Worlds champion explained.
He outlined the searing pace set by Kipsang from the 10th kilometre forced him to reserve his energy for the final push.
“I was focused for the gold medal but it was an accident that I missed it. I love championship races and I did not expect Kiprotich would have such strength. We were prepared for the Ethiopians but in future, we need to prepare for everyone,” the world titleholder who is now aiming to become the first man to bag a third crown next year in Moscow admitted.
“I decided to take off because I saw the competition was very high and the guys knew I was the favourite and they wanted to slow the pace. They would have had the advantage towards the end and I knew that there would only one or two guys who would catch up with me.
“At 35K, the heat was becoming excessive and I decided to slow down because I saw if I ran with that pace, I would not have been a position to finish the race. It was a fantastic race and when Abel and Kiprotich caught up with me, I saw the opportunity to relax a bit but the Ugandan was very strong. He used Abel and I as rabbits because he refused to assist in the pace making before he took advantage at a bend and a small hill and when he sprinted, we could not catch up,” Kipsang, who landed bronze in 2:09:37 assessed.
“This was the first time to represent Kenya at an Olympics and I have a challenge to improve on the bronze I got if I’m selected since competing for my country has inspired me,” the London and Frankfurt marathons titleholder charged.
Besides the pair, London marathon course record holder, Emmanuel Mutai, the Worlds silver winner in 2009, was the third Kenyan in the race and having fallen off the lead by 20Km, he subsequently clocked 2:14:49 for 17th.
“I’m happy to win the silver medal. It was very hard and I discovered the Olympics are not like any other marathons I have done. I have never experienced the pain I felt after that race before.
“Everyone was prepared to win gold but what messed us was the rain that fell as we warmed up. We prayed to God to help us since when we train and it starts raining, we always take cover but we had no option but to compete. From 35K to 38K, it started raining and Edna and Mary fell off and it was left to me,” Jeptoo, a silver medallist at the Worlds last year who ran in 2:13:12 in London told.
“At 40K, Mary was throwing up and as I looked to see whether she was alright and at that moment the Ethiopian took off and when I turned, she was 10 metres ahead. I gave chase since there was a Russian pushing me as well and when I realised I could not catch up, I worked to maintain the silver and I’m glad I made it,” she added.
Jeptoo was the third favourite in the Kenyan line-up behind two-time London Marathon winner, Mary Keitany who breast the tape in 2:23:56 for fourth and world champion, Edna Kiplagat (2:27:52) who placed 20th after dropping off the pace midrace.
The London silver winner succeeded Catherine Ndereba who scooped the second medal at the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 events.
Their performance that mirrored those of their teammates in other distance races where Kenya tallied 2 gold, 4 silver and 5 bronze medals that fell below the target to surpass Beijing where the nation won 6 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze saw the country’s Sports Minister, Dr. Paul Otuoma call for a root and branch examination of how the team is prepared.
“Kenyans had high expectations but we have learned that the way we handle our teams before we undertake international assignments need to be changed. If it is the issue of federations, coaches, facilities and medical reports, we need all this reviewed so that we know what never to overlook,” he charged as he promised a probe into London 2012.
“We need to prepare earlier for these events that we usually done,” he added.