NAIROBI, Kenya, May 10- Catherine ‘The Great’ Ndereba has officially passed on the baton to the class of London 2012 to achieve the only milestone that eluded her glittering career- bringing the women marathon Olympics gold medal to Kenya.
Ndereba, who won silver at the 2004 Athens and the last edition in Beijing, is confident that world champion, Edna Kiplagat and her bridesmaid from Daegu, Priscah Jeptoo in addition to London Marathon winner, Mary Keitany, will deliver Kenya to the promised land at the forthcoming Games.
“Surely, we have the most fantastic team ever and it is the hope of everyone that this is the year that we are going to have the gold. I have come closest by scoring two silvers in two Olympics and what we need is the gold medal,” Ndereba said as she appraised the line-up unveiled by Athletics Kenya in the aftermath of the London Marathon.
“I consider this year’s Olympics as a relay, I have done my lap and now it is their turn to complete the race and bring what I could not win home. No matter what people say, the two silvers I won are my gold medals but now, I have passed the baton,” she added.
Having trailed Japan’s Mizuki Noguchi in Athens and Romania’s Constatina Tomescu-Dita four years later, Ndereba whose Olympics marathon odyssey can be equated to the Biblical Moses has this to tell the ‘Kenyan Joshuas’ who will be aiming for the top medal in London.
“They should understand that this is not like any other individual race. They should pay much attention and stay focused, know that all other nationalities will be there and they should be careful and run as a team while maintaining team spirit.
“Team spirit is important since they should keep encouraging each other and when they are running and one feels weak, the others should pick her up,” the Paris 2003 and Osaka 2007 world marathon titleholder advised.
On the composition of the team that sees the top two from last year’s Worlds paired with the freshly minted national record holder, the four-time Boston Marathon titleholder believes the trio’s individual strengths complement each other.
“They are the best athletes we have at this time if they stay focused and they should know that they are competing for only three medals. It does not matter whether it is Keitany, Priscah or Edna who is going to bring the gold
“The Olympics are the most prestigious games of all since the recognition goes for four years as opposed to say two at the World Championships. The team is balanced with speed and experience at championships and that is the key,” the twice Olympics silver medallist averred.
Having held the previous national record of 2:18:47 from her 2001 victory at Chicago Marathon that was also the world best at the time, Ndereba watched as Keitany who idolises ‘The Great’ powered to 2:18:36 at the April 22 London event to erase her mark.
“It gives me much joy that somebody was working to lower my time since when I was starting; I worked so hard day and night to lower the time run by Tegla Loroupe (2:20:43). This is what athletes should be aiming for, to better the effort made by those who came before them,” the two-time Chicago Marathon crown holder expressed.
She called on the trio who will pound the streets of London in search of Olympics glory brace for a stern psychological test.
“Running at the Olympics is all about getting the mentality right. You must pace yourself since there are no pace makers and you do not want to be used by others, time your moves right and you can only achieve that during training for the race.”
Having opened the doors to the new generation of her country’s female marathoners, Ndereba who is approaching the last leg of an illustrious career that set-off in 1996 is more than assured of a rich legacy.
“I normally feel I’m a blessed woman since the Lord used me. I remember when I came to marathon running, there were very few women marathoners since most were looking at it as a monster.
“Nobody wanted to be related with it since they feared the game but the more I kept running and winning, they realised that it is interesting and they found the bravery to do it and they more they tried, they found themselves excelling. No we cannot fit in one race and I’m proud of that,” she added on her prominent role in the evolution of potent Kenyan female runners.
Having not secured a chance to compete in her third Olympics, Ndereba is preparing to compete at the Gifu Half Marathon in Japan.
“I cannot say when I will stop, I will only stop when my body tells me to do so and then, I will not keep quiet, I will make it known to all and my wish is to remain in the sport for long after that by mentoring others,” the first woman to win Boston four-times said of when she would finally hang up her honour laden boots.