NAIROBI, April 4, 2008 (AFP) – Athletics Kenya on Thursday blamed political violence for the country’s poor performance at the World cross championships in Edinburgh, failing to win any individual title for the first time since 1986.
Kenyan runners lost men’s and women’s seniors to Ethiopia when Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba won the titles on March 30. But Kenya won the team titles in both the junior and senior men’s events ahead of Ethiopia, which took the both women’s categories.
Athletics Kenya chief David Okeyo said the Kenyan performance was affected by month’s of political violence — where 1,500 people died — which denied capable runners a chance to participate in trials and also reduced training time.
"It (violence) put a number of athletes out, they did not even train. Those athletes that we know did not come (out to participate in the trials)," Okeyo told a local television station.
"The people who came and presented themselves for final trials are the ones we selected infront of everybody."
But Okeyo said although Kenenisa won the men’s seniors, country’s performance was satisfactory compared to Ethiopian in that category.
"If you do not do well in the men’s seniors, then you have not done anything. Where were they (Ethiopians) in the men seniors, we really dismantled them apart from (Kenenisa) Bekele," he added.
On Monday, former world cross country champion Paul Tergat warned the country Kenya is losing out in cross country running and unless a remedy to stop the sharp decline is identified, the country will suffer in the Beijing Olympics.
Tergat said it was very disappointing to see Kenya fail to win any individual title at the just-concluded world cross country championships in Edinburgh for the first time ever since 1986.
Tergat was the last Kenyan to win senior men’s world individual title in 1999.