Charles Kamathi is the last runner from the country to win the men 25-lap race title when a searing last lap took him past the favoured Ethiopians led by their distance running icon Haile Gebrsellasie to glory in the 2001 edition in Moncton, Canada.
Since then, the ascendancy of Kenenisa Bekele, has witnessed the Ethiopian claim the subsequent four titles, with the unprecedented bid for a fifth here in Daegu on the cards.
Dethroning the man born in Bekoji, Arsi Province in Ethiopia will take a fight of gladiatorial proportions and this is what the Team Kenya class of 2011 has promised to deliver.
“It does not matter what they do, we want this gold back. It does not matter how they run, if they run fast, we shall chase them, if they run slow, we shall run ahead of them. We are not afraid even if there is Kenenisa or Sileshi, we have no fear.”
That is how Martin Irungu Mathathi, a victim of Kenenisa’s power when he was beaten to the third medal with perennial bridesmaid, Sileshi ‘Silver’ Sihine also charging past him in Osaka 2007, opted to draw the battle lines.
Sihine is also in town hoping to finally break the ‘Silver’ tag at best or retain his position at the very least.
The Suzuki Hamamatsu Corporate team runner based in Japan went off too early in Osaka and paid for it when the two Ethiopians motored past him and in Daegu, he wants to erase the bitter memories of four years ago.
“In Osaka, I did not have the necessary experience and I mistimed my breakaway, I went off too early and this allowed them to respond. This time, I will not give them the chance since I want gold for our country and for myself.”
“We last won gold ten years ago and it is a record we want ended. We have trained hard for this as a team and it’s unfortunate Wilson (Kiprop) got injured late in the day but Paul (Tanui) who has been brought in is a strong athlete and I’m sure we will bring something good,” teammate and debutant Peter Kirui added.
“For me, winning would be a dream but the bigger task is reclaiming what we lost a long time ago. First, I will do everything for the team then think of myself when hopefully, we beat the competition, I will think of going for something,” the Administration Police officer who won the Kenyan Trials ahead of African champion, Wilson Kiprop and Mathathi stated.
Although he is new in track running, Kirui has clocked the necessary mileage on the road racing circuit and notably played the rabbit to the late Samuel Wanjiru when he won Chicago Marathon.
Paul Tanui, the third prong in the Kenyan assault has extra motivation to perform well. The last time he was called up to the Kenyan team to an international event was in March when Athletics Kenya (AK) drafted him in to replace Leonard Komon.
He went on to win silver in Spain and only joined the Daegu team when Kiprop injured himself in training three days to departure. His other inspiration is his fans from the corporate team he is based in Japan, Kyudenko, took a ferry ride to Busan before busing to Daegu to support their athlete.
“I want to give my best to return the favour God gave me by being selected. There are also my supporters from Japan to think of and nothing would make me happier that a best run,” he stated.
Will Kenenisa’s reign be ended by charged Kenyans or will the status quo remain?
The intrigue has been heightened by the fact the Ethiopian who is seeking a record sixth title after clinching the 5000m/10000m double in Berlin has not raced since winning the former.
Could he have been sparing his legs for the chase for history?
– Mutwiri Mutuota is reporting for Capital Sport from Daegu, South Korea.