NAIROBI, Kenya June 28 – Chances of Ezekiel Kemboi becoming the first Kenyan to win two Olympics steeplechase gold medals received a potential mortal blow on Thursday after he was charged with assault at a court in Eldoret.
The two-time men 3000m water and barriers world champion was charged with assaulting and injuring 26-year-old Ann Njeri on Wednesday night.
Kemboi, who won the gold medal at Athens Olympics in 2004 before adding the world titles in Berlin 2009 and Daegu last year, was released on a Sh50,000 bond and a cash bail of Sh20,000 after he denied the charges.
Hearing of the case was fixed for September 31 after his lawyers Ledisha Kishon and William Chemok pleaded with the court to set it after the London Olympic Games but strict UK laws bar anyone facing or convicted of criminal offenses from entry into Britain.
He appeared before Senior Principal Magistrate Francis Kiambia where he faced the charged which were allegedly committed in West Indies, in the outskirts of Eldoret town.
Throughout the court session, Kemboi appeared smiling in the packed court.
The alleged victim, Ann Njeri, who runs a restaurant in Eldoret, had earlier told police that they had been drinking at a pub with the Daegu champion, before he offered to drop her to her parents’ home in West Indies, in the outskirts of the town.
But before alighting, the woman claims they differed prompting a confrontation during which the athlete allegedly stabbed her on the left side of the chest.
Local Police said the athlete later presented himself to the station and claimed that he had been attacked.
He was taken to court after writing a statement, which prompted the police to conclude he was not a victim as he had earlier alleged.
Kemboi booked his place in the London Olympics squad by finishing second at the Kenyan trials on Saturday where he impressed the crowd by re-enacting his ‘Pamela Chepchumba’ dance while also imitating the Usain Bolt arrow.
Team Kenya for London General Manager Team Kenya James Chacha told Capital FM National Olympics Committee of Kenya (Noc-k) would announce whether Kemboi will continue being part of the team.
“Currently we are discussing the matter with relevant officials following this incident that has a potential of shedding our team in bad light,” he said.
In a statement, Nock said they were investigating how Kemboi was caught up in the alleged incident when he was supposed to be in residential training at Nairobi’s Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
“We can only come to the aid of the competitors who are with us in camp and in his case, we cannot be held accountable since he was not where he was supposed to be,” Chacha added in a comment that seems to have sealed Kemboi’s Olympics fate.
The steeplechaser who is one of the most recognisable Kenyan runners due to his colourful antics on the track and the news of his stabbing allegations and subsequent arrest have become fodder for international media.
Social network sites Facebook and Twitter were abuzz after the news broke up with international news agencies among them BBC, Yahoo! Eurosport and Reuters reporting the incident.
Among his potential replacements in the London team include Athens bronze winner, Paul Kipsiele Koech, the two-time Samsung Diamond League winner who has ran the fastest time of the year or Richard Mateelong, the Continental Cup, Commonwealth and African titleholder.
Kemboi did not run in school like many other Kenyan athletes as he had higher interests in football (midfielder), music (DJ at school parties), drama and debate.
He started running on his own after leaving school, fixing on the Steeplechase in emulation of fellow Marakwet athletes Moses Kiptanui and William Mutwol.
In April 2001 Kemboi entered an open Athletics Kenya meeting in Kakamega and won Steeplechase in 8:56 catching the eye of IAAF/IOC coach Paul Ereng, who invited him to train at the newly-created High Altitude Training Centre in Eldoret and from there, a successful career was born.
-Report by Bernard Momanyi and Mutwiri Mutuota