NAIROBI, Kenya, May 21- Team Kenya pledged to serve up another show of dominance at the Thomas A. Robinson Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas when the starting gun to the inaugural IAAF World Relay Championships goes off on Saturday.
The cocktail of World, Commonwealth, African medallists and hopefuls keen to make their name on the global stage were scheduled to depart Wednesday night to take on 39 nations in the already sold two-day relay extravaganza.
“We are ready and what we are asking as Kenyans is prayers. We have the will, the capacity and the strength to go and perform.
“Personally, I shall do my best but being a relay event, I expect my colleagues in the 4x400m and other relay teams, I expect the same spirit to deliver gold for Kenya. Everyone is psyched and excited to compete and set standards,” Commonwealth men 400m champion and overall captain, Mark Mutai, told Capital Sport ahead of departure.
Kenya will parade competitors in the men 2x200m and 4x400m as well as men and women team in 4x800m and 4x1500m with US based sprinting sensation, Carvin Nkanata, who was included in the squad on Monday linking up with his team mates in Nassau.
World champions, Asbel Kiprop (men 1500m) and Eunice Sum (800m metres) as well as Worlds silver medallist, Mercy Cherono (women 5000m) and bronze winner, Hellen Obiri (women 1500m) are the quartet commanding most interest in Team Kenya but all round, the squad boasts of quality particularly in the distance events.
“The victory will be celebrated as a team. It will be sweet victory since we will all be winning the gold medal and not running against each other as before.
“Our expectations is I believe we will secure first of all the gold medal and better the world record set by our colleagues and put it in a safer side,” Kiprop, who opened his international season in a sensational victory at the Doha Diamond League meet stressed.
“We are very excited and ready for Bahamas. We have been training for the last three weeks and the world record is possible. We are going there for the record set by our colleagues in Brussels.
“However, we cannot afford to slip up since if any of us makes a mistake, it will cost all of us but it is exciting to get a chance to win Kenya’s second gold,” his 4x1500m team mate and Commonwealth champion, Silas Kiplagat, his hitherto bitter domestic rival added.
Collins Cheboi, Joseph Magut and Nixon Chepseba complete the men’s Metric Mile relay line-up that is eyeing the 14:36.23 world record in the 4x1500m set by compatriots Augustine Choge, William Tanui (now Tanui Oblizhen of Turkey), Gideon Gathimba and Geoffrey Rono at the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels in 2009.
“My hope is to be among the top three. We expect stiff competition from Russian and American athletes but we shall do our best. The world record set by Russians is too high so aiming for the gold is more realistic for us.
“This is a team event and we shall have to see how it goes,” Sum who once again expressed her thrill at competing with her mentor and Osaka 2007 world champion, Janeth Jepkosgei told.
For the potent line-up in the women 4x1500m that has Obiri, Cherono, double World Junior champion, Faith Chepng’etich and Japan based, Ann Karindi, lowering the world record* they set in Nairobi during the Bahamas Trials on April 26 is the resolve besides running away with the honours.
“At the Trials, we did not have Obiri and Chepng’etich but with them in the team, we can run faster and we have been training to run faster than what we did in Nairobi once we realised we can do it.
Karindi, alongside Chreono, World Indoors finalist, Irene Jelagat and Perine Nenkampi breezed to 17:05.8 to shatter the previous standard of 17:08.34 run at the University of Tennessee in the US but the latter will not be travelling to Bahamas.
“I have never won a gold medal in Kenya and to be in a team that is capable of doing so gives me so much excitement and I can’t wait for us to go to the track. We are not saying we have won already, there’s tough competition that we need to overcome to realise our dreams,” Karindi added.
Head coach, Sammy Rono, announced a target of winning medals in four of the six events they have entered noting the pressure was on the sprinters to vie for places in next year’s World Championships and possibly, 2016 Olympics Games.
“Qualification for next year’s World Championships in 4x400m will be decided in Bahamas and we have told them as well as those in the 4X200m to take this chance and fight for their places.
“We have the Commonwealth Games and Africa championships to think about as selectors and how they will compete in Bahamas will give us a better idea of where we are in short distances,” Rono explained.
“For the distances, we expect medals as is the tradition but we are not taking it for granted and we still have to do more planning when we get in Bahamas especially on how we shall line-up the teams,” he added.
On Pittsburgh based Nkanata who has a lifetime best of 20.14 over 200m joining the team in the 11th hour, the head coach noted, “He is the kind of athlete who can give his team mates the motivation they need to perform wonders.”
A total prize purse of USD $1.4m (Sh128m) is on offer, and the top eight teams in the 4x100m and 4x400m will automatically qualify for the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing.