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AK drops tough stance on pre-championship racing

NAIROBI, Kenya, July 28- Having previously stamped their foot hard on selected athletes racing abroad in the run-up to major events, the class of Daegu 2011 World Championships have found Athletics Kenya (AK) in a more charitable mood.

With just under a month to go before the women 10000m squad lines-up to chase medals in South Korea, some 20 athletes selected for the biennial global event will compete on Friday in the DN Galan Samsung Diamond League meeting in Stockholm.

More, including world 800m record holder David Rudisha, are penned to race at the London leg of the elite-circuit competition next week, barely a fortnight to the World Championships.

So, why the change of heart from a federation that in the recent past, brooked no excuses for runners selected in the Kenyan team to major events?

“We have noticed that our athletes have become more professional in how they are competing and are using these races to maintain their form. This is very good for our country and that is why we allowed them to enter these events,” AK chairman, Isaiah Kiplagat told Capital Sport on Thursday.

“We also realise that the Diamond League is a points-based event and it is important for athletes like Rudisha who missed some races due to injury to go there and get some points and also, get back to competitive shape,” the chairman added.

He admitted organisers of the Diamond League were concerned the federation would withdraw the country’s runners who made the Daegu team from the Monaco, Stockholm and London legs of the 14-meet international elite tour.

“Kenyan athletes make a majority of the distances entries at these races and having them not there would not be positive for the spirit of the competition,” Kiplagat noted.

Speaking separately on the same subject, Team Kenya for Daegu head coach, Peter Mathu disclosed he was not concerned with the athletes absent from the squad’s residential camp that has 11 athletes so far.

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“The athletes who participate in those events have changed completely. We saw it at the nationals that they are running more tactically and athletes such as Rudisha and Asbel Kiprop have matured from two years ago because of competing in such races,” Mathu observed.

He was alluding to the failure of the world 800m record holder, David Rudisha and Olympics 1500m champion, Asbel Kiprop, to medal at the Berlin edition of the Worlds two years ago where he was also the head coach.

“There is need to find a balance between representing their nation which they have been doing with honour and making their living at these events and since they have become professionals, the understanding between them and the technical bench has improved,” Mathu explained.

He stated the Stockholm group would arrive in camp on Sunday.

“These athletes have been training and competing so what remains for us is to sharpen the team tactics when they are here. We have monitored their performances through the season and we are confident they are fine.”

In March, AK banished Leonard Komon from the World Cross Country team after he raced in a 10K race in Puerto Rico after selection and ahead of the 2009 Worlds, Lineth Chepkurui (women 10000m), Sammy Kitwara and Gideon Ngatuny (men 10000m) were also withdrawn from the national squad for competing in road races after the Trials.

World, Commonwealth, Africa and World Cross titleholder, Vivian Cheruiyot, were among those compelled to return to the country without competing in races they had been penned to run upon selection to the Punta Umbria World Cross.

The federation’s tough stance put the affect athletes, their managers and in the case of Komon, the general public, at bitter cross roads in addition to causing disquiet in the respective team’s camp.

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