Athletics Athletics

1500m collapse exposes Team Kenya rot


NAIROBI, Kenya, August 8- So what happened to the Kenyan men 1500m team on Tuesday night?

Their failure to at least medal was one of the most sensation collapses witnessed at London 2012 thus far having come to London as number 1, 2 and 3 in the world lists.

It was a performance that bore naked the discord in Team Kenya’s ranks at London 2012 as grandstanding and finger pointing took centre stage in a heated meeting on Wednesday morning at the Olympics Village between the athletes and their officials.

Prior to the metric mile disaster Asbel Kiprop held the Olympics 2008, African 2010 and Worlds 2011 crowns while Silas Kiplagat possessed the Commonwealth 2010 gold and Worlds 2011 silver medals.

Diamond League winner, Nixon Chepseba was the junior of the group but nonetheless equally talented and when the trio made the finals, talk of a possible groundbreaking podium sweep gathered momentum.

But in a cruel twist to the millions of Kenyans, who stayed up to soak in a second gold medal at London 2012 following Ezekiel Kemboi’s success on Sunday, went to bed downcast as they took to social networks with venom.

“I had a hamstring during my last workout several days before we started competition. I never healed enough to run here tonight. But it happens, this is sports and we have a winner and a loser and today I was last,” the dejected world champion and leader told SuperSport at the Mixed Zone.

“I’m not disappointed because I knew I had a hamstring. I was ready to compete at the Olympics, two weeks ago; I raced in Monaco and ran a world lead. Two weeks ago, I pulled a hamstring and I could not heal that quickly and that is why I could not respond to any reaction they made,” Kiprop who breezed to his 3:28.88 career best top 2012 time on July 20.

Team Kenya athletics manager, Joseph Kinyua, told Capital Sport from London that indeed he took the fallen champion to the Nike medical centre in the Olympics city twice to seek treatment.

“As far as I’m concerned, Asbel gave his best since he was in pain throughout. Getting as far as he did is commendable and he is still young (23) and he has many more races to compete and win for his nation,” the official added.

He said the short time period between the start of competition and when he suffered the injury on the morning of the team’s departure for London on June 30 ruled out securing a replacement.

But the gutted Chepseba was more direct in the criticism of his teammates, candidly confessing lack of teamwork among the finalists even with the injured champion who unlike the semis, opted to stick to the tail end of the race throughout.

“I don’t know what happened. This is a championship and I don’t know what happened,” the debutant who was close to tears after finishing second last in decried.

“We had trained hard, we had trained well and we had good times this season and I cannot tell what happened,” he added as he shook his head in disgust.

Then he exposed the sharp divisions among the athletes that are not only confined to the men 1500m squad according to reports from the Kenyan camp.

“I offered myself to my teammates but some agreed and others agreed. There were no team tactics. I had told them I can run for you and follow me and you win but I did not see that,” the Diamond League winner who pushed the pace between 600m to the back straight as they came for the finish confided.

“I’m so disappointed because a championship can come once or twice in your career and there are so many young guys coming and it is so painful,” the youngest of the Kenyan trio at 21 years lamented.

Their shocking performance that continued the London 2012 nightmare for the nation since the start of the track and field programme on Sunday necessitated a Team Kenya meeting at the Olympics Village.

Capital Sport understands officials of National Olympics Committee of Kenya (Nock), Athletics Kenya (AK) and Government engaged in a round of tossing the blame as their charges sat and watched.

Some of the sticking issues that emerged at the stormy gathering ranged from Nock chief and retired legend, Kipchoge Keino, being cited for incensing the athletes during the June 23 Trials when he declared they must all attend the Bristol training camp that opened on July 3.

In a move that infuriated the runners further, top Nock officials travelled to the UK city leaving the team with only a handful of managers as deputy athletics team leader, Bernard Njoga was expelled from the squad after he was indicted for majority of the athletes no show at the State House flag presentation led by President Kibaki and a Procter and Gamble dinner attended by Prime Minister, Raila Odinga.

On the other hand, AK chief Isaiah Kiplagat was charged with inciting the athletes to rebel against Nock in the long running feud.

Government mandarins were singled out for their high numbers at the Olympics Village without any particular roles aimed at aiding the team as some of useful personnel such as personal trainers and a physiotherapist conversant with the team were locked out.

The failure of the supremely talented men 1500m provided the most glaring insight into the Tower of Babel the Team Kenya at London 2012 is as hopes of even coming close to the Beijing tally of 6 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze let alone surpassing it as earlier expected continue to fade to black.