Athletics Athletics

Captain Yego aims to spear his way to gold


JULIUS-YEGONAIROBI, Kenya – Julius Yego and history have become synonymous since he won his country the men Javelin gold medal at the All Africa Games in Maputo in 2011.

His progression from a downcast teenage field athlete who shed bitter tears when Athletics Kenya (AK) declined to enter him for the 2008 World Junior Championships despite his 72.41m throw qualifying him for the competition to leading his nation’s squad for the 14th IAAF World Championships in Moscow as overall captain has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Since Maputo, Yego has gone ahead to break the national record no less than seven time, his latest best mark, 82.09m, being set last month (Jul 13) at the Trials for Moscow where once again, he eclipsed the more renowned distance running stars with the performance of the event.

Last year, he made history as the first African Javelin thrower to qualify for the Olympics final in London.

In Moscow, Yego’s expanding lists of first continues as the first ever field captain of the Kenyan squad besides being the pioneering exponent of his sport to represent his country at the biennial global showpiece.

“Everybody is happy; we are now leaving for Moscow. We have been doing well in training, no issues and we are so happy that the time has come for us to go there.

“We are not putting ourselves under any pressure. Pressure can cause you to lose and we are not thinking about what happened in 2011, this is another year, some who were in Daegu are we us, we are under no pressure, we want there to do our best,” the skipper said before the team finally departed on the second attempt on Tuesday following a fuel outage that saw their Monday flight to Moscow via Dubai cancelled.

“This will not affect our spirits, so many other passengers were caught up in the mess and although we missed a whole day, we are still motivated to perform,” Yego, 24, said of the more than 14-hour delay.

For him, being given the responsibility to succeed injured world men 800m record holder, David Rudisha, as the overall captain of the Kenyan team represents another feather in his ever expanding cap.

“It’s an honour and pleasure to be the captain of the athletics team. I have to thank my fellow athletes who proposed me and everybody accepted. This is the first time we have a field athlete as a captain and I’m honoured for that.”

Yego moved to allay fears that the squad that is shorn of three of the six world champions who won seven gold medals, Rudisha, Abel Kirui (men marathon) and double world women titleholder, Vivian Cheruiyot among other experienced athletes would not scale the heights when competition gets underway on Saturday.

“Even if Rudisha, Kirui and Vivian are not there, the team is ready and those guys who are there are going to score. In fact, I know they will win and cause surprises and everyone will be asking, what is happening?” he effused.

As the figure head of a team that has continued being the major stars at the biennial global competition for decades, it is not lost to Yego that like former skippers, Rudisha (2011 and 2012), Richard Mateelong (2010) and Wilfred Bungei (2008) before him; the captain is expected by example and deliver the top medal.

“Of course, I would like to be like those guys and lead from the front but for me, I’m praying that I first make the final and win the gold for Kenya. It’s my first time at the World Championships and as a captain and to bring the gold medal home would be a dream,” he stated.

Head coach, Sammy Rono, who is leading the squad to the World Championships for the first time, tipped his captain to leave an impression in Russia in a field where Kenya is not known to excel.

“You saw him break the national record during the Trials and the way he has been training and conducting himself as my captain tells me that he has the capability to get to the medals and lead from the front.

“He was the most suited for the role in the group we are taking to Moscow,” Rono added.

Yego will be assisted by the women 800m world champion from 2007, Janeth Jepkosgei, who will be making her fourth straight Worlds appearance.