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Mutai, Mureta axed as first batch departs

NAIROBI, Kenya, July 4- Commonwealth champion, Mark Mutai and Anderson Mureta, who was part of the Kenyan 4X400m relay team at Daegu Worlds have been axed from the London 2012 squad as the first batch departed on Wednesday night in a haze of celebration.

The pair who competed at the recently concluded African Athletics Championships that concluded in Benin over the weekend were dropped over what officials said was ‘poor form.’

“We have three new comers from the junior team because they made good times in Benin. Kenya will participate in the 4X400m and that has been confirmed by IAAF.

“The decision to replace them is the preserve of Athletics Kenya but it was due to their performance,” Stephen Soi, Team Kenya CEO, said on Wednesday night.

In their place newly crowned African 400m Hurdles bronze medallist, Benson Mucheru, World Youth silver winner and Olympics Youth Games bronze medallist, Alphas Kishoiyan and Boniface Mweresa will therefore team up with veteran sprinter, Vincent Mumo, hurdler Vincent Koskei, and world record holder, David Rudisha in the 4X400m relay team in London.

Mumo did not make the trip since his documentation had not yet been processed with Kishoiyan and Mweresa due to leave on Sunday for the IAAF World Junior Athletics Championships.

Soi was speaking during the departure of the first batch of Team Kenya competitors where for the first time in living memory, the thin squad was afforded a roaring send-off.

The Kenya Prisons band led a procession around Jomo Kenyatta International Airport that brought business at the busy hub to standstill as curious onlookers milled around to watch the impromptu jamboree.

Roller-skaters led the band and the competitors to circle the departure area thrice in a ceremony organised by Brand Kenya.

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The contingent of 24, comprising of four athletes, two boxers and a weightlifter as well as officials left for London where they were due to connect to the Olympics training camp in Bristol.

No distance runners

None of the distance runners namely those in 800m who were expected to be in the squad travelled with National Olympics Committee of Kenya (Nock) asserting they were given leave to compete in Europe on Thursday.

Sprinters Koskei, Joy Zakari and female hurdler Maureen Jelagat, Javelin men thrower, Julius Yego, boxers Benson Gicharu and Elizabeth Ongoro as well as female weightlifter are the competing group that left for the UK.

“We faced some difficulties with some of the sprinters since we were expecting their accreditation cards to arrive by this evening (Wednesday) and we were compelled to withdraw from departure.

“We also gave some of our athletes permission to travel to Paris for the Diamond League while Anthony Chemut and Timothy Kitum will fly from Barcelona to London Olympics village when the World Juniors are over,” Soi explained the yawning absence of 800m runners who were due to travel led by Team Kenya captain and record holder, David Rudisha as well as why Mumo, a competitor in the Athens Olympics did not show.

The CEO disclosed some officials were due to leave for London on Saturday with the main group of athletes comprising all distance runners bar female and male marathoners set to depart on July 22 for London Olympics.

Nock was under pressure to scale back plans for mid and long distance runners to attend the Bristol training camp with Capital Sport establishing they will be back to the country after featuring in Paris and Belgium for Olympics women 800m champion, Pamela Jelimo.

Rudisha who departed on Monday will compete in Paris alongside teammates Olympics champion, Brimin Kipruto (men 3000m steeplechase), Isaiah Kiplangat Koech (men 5000m), Viola Kibiwott (women 5000m) and Lydia Rotich (women 3000m steeple) who left for France on Wednesday night but were not part of the send off celebrations.

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AK does one over Nock

Nock sparked unrest at the team’s training camp when they insisted on athletes in the 800m and 1500m races to depart for the Bristol camp before backing down in the face of an open revolt that will be interpreted as victory of Athletics Kenya (AK) boss Isaiah Kiplagat who was vehemently opposed to the idea.

Amid counter-accusations that AK had made their own Olympics pre-training camp in Bedford, Nock chief, Kipchoge Keino who will be given the Freedom of the City in Bristol tomorrow slammed resistance to the plans he personally hatched.

However, bereft of the country’s marquee athletes besides him as he receives the high accolade in the facility named after the retired two-time Olympics gold winner, the forcing of the Olympics association’s hands by the runners represents a blow to his legend having been named an inductee in the IAAF Hall of Fame on Monday.

Athletes were also in uproar over sending physiotherapist Dr. Peter Nduhiu out to Bristol and after showing up at the airport, the medic was eventually let off the flight in another slap-to-the face for the Olympics body.

On the razzmatazz that accompanied the departure of the first contingent, Soi and indeed competitors departing hailed the gesture as a motivator.

“For long, we have agitated to have the team sent-off in the same manner it is received when they win and I’m pleased companies have taken this up and come out to give them such a warm send-off,” he noted.

That was the only high point on an evening when the Olympics body licked their wounds under the collective might of Kenya’s medal breadbasket.

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