NAIROBI, March 23- “Go forth and bring back glory,” was the simple brief the Kenya team for Saturday’s Guiyang World Cross was given when they were hosted to a dinner fit for kings in Nairobi on Monday night on the eve of their departure for China.
Since 1981, the red, black and green strip has become synonymous with excellence with the class of 2015 fired up to maintain the tradition that has seen many Kenyan distance greats return home as world champions from the now biennial global showpiece.
Listening intently as they focused on the task at hand, the 24 athletes who will put their nation’s pride and honour on the line in China were urged to gun for all eight gold medals on offer in individual and team races to repeat their unprecedented sweep of the 2010 edition in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
If the pressure was on, the collection of accomplished and budding runners did not show it as their chosen captain and 2011 World Cross junior champion, Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor declared when he rose to address the gathering hosted by team sponsors Kenya Commercial Bank at a Nairobi hotel.
“For us what remains now is to go out there and make our nation proud in China. We will give our best since we have all trained well and together,” Kamworor who completed a gun to tape victory over 8km in Punta Umbria, Spain promised.
The now accomplished marathoner and a two-time third finisher at Berlin will be assisted by Janet Kisa, who is the captain of the women’s squad.
“The time has come to prove ourselves and put all the hard work we have been doing in training to bring medals. It will not be easy but we are ready for the fight,” two-time National senior men champion and World Cross debutant, Bedan Karoki added.
Athletics Kenya (AK) president, Isaiah Kiplagat, hailed the youth and experienced mix that will carry the nation’s flag in China saying they had received a glowing report from their handlers in camp to make them optimistic of a clean sweep.
“We stepped down from eight (gold medals) in Poland in 2010 to seven in 2013 and back to eight last year in Africa. This team should go there and bring all gold medals, keep the ones we won and win back the one (8km junior) we lost last time.
“We are sending you to Guiyang with a mission, bring back glory, the nation is waiting for you,” Kiplagat urged.
– Kit issues-
The federation boss promised to take up the matter of lack of proper kitting with suppliers, American sports attire giant, Nike, following complaints from the runners who reported being short on shoes, training gear and other requirements for the winter IAAF showpiece.
“We have a contract with them and they are aware of the problems we have. Sometimes they give us small shoes and vests for kids or bring a low number of what we have asked for. That should not be a problem; we will talk to them to see whether we can deal with the equipment issues.
“We can get some money to buy what you need when we get there, that should not be a reason not to perform well. I’m not saying we will cancel the contract because we believe a solution can be found,” the AK boss affirmed.
Kiplagat assured ongoing wrangles in AK that have pit him against 14 affiliate branches against his extended 22 year rule with the matter in court did not affect preparations for th Guiyang squad.
“Squabbles or no squabbles, AK will prepare the teams to represent Kenya in the best possible way,” he stressed.
In announcing the Government had catered for tickets and allowances for the team and their officials, Commissioner for Sport, Gordon Olouch, echoed Kiplagat saying, “AK has led by example in keeping politics out of the team.”
The team under the tutelage of experienced hand, head coach David Letting, jets out on Tuesday evening aboard an Ethiopian flight to Addis Ababa, Beijing then Guiyang where they are scheduled to arrive Wednesday, 11am local time.
Senior men: Leonard Barsoton, Geoffrey Kamworor, Bedan Karoki, Joseph Kitum, Phillip Langat, Moses Letoyie Mukono
Senior women: Emily Chebet, Irene Cheptai, Agnes Tirop, Margaret Kipkemboi, Janet Kisa, Stacy Ndiwa
Junior men: Rodgers Chumo, Dominic Kiptarus, Moses Koech, Geoffrey Korir, John Langat, Alfred Ngeno
Junior women: Rosefline Chepngetich, Joyline Cherotich, Daisy Jepkemei, Gladys Kipkoech, Winnie Koima, Winfred Mbithe