NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 3- The year 2016 will go down as one of the most successful in Kenyan Athletics history, but it will also be remembered as one hugely tainted by the mismanagement of the country’s team to the Rio Olympics by the National Olympic Committee.
The aftermath of Kenya’s most successful Olympics was characterized with a section of the NOCK officials taken to task for corruption and mismanaging the team in Rio with accusations of kit and cash theft.
Two of the officials, Chief de Mission Stephen Soi and his deputy James Chacha were arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by police on arrival from Rio, just hours after another official FK Paul was arrested at his home.
They were later, including another official Pius Ochieng charged at the Milimani Law Courts.
Soi was Charged with five counts of stealing amounting to Ksh 25.9 million meant for athletes while Ochieng’ who is the NOCK vice chairman and Secretary General FK Paul were charged with fraudulently acquiring Team Kenya kit from official sponsors Nike.
The last straw to go down on the Rio saga was the arrest of first vice chair Ben Ekumbo at his home with a stash of kits found in his apartment.
The Rio saga attracted the wrath of the country’s head of state President Uhuru Kenyatta who vowed to ensure those culpable were punished.
President Kenyatta is set to receive a report from a probe committee constituted by the Cabinet Secretary for Sports Hassan Wario while the same will also be prepared by the Senate and National Assembly Committees for Sports.
-SUCCESSFUL RIO OLYMPICS-
Save for the side shows, Kenya managed its best ever performance in the games, managing a total of 13 medals, all from track and field.
Kenya Airforce officer Jemimah Sumgong made history, being the first ever Kenyan woman to win the marathon gold medal after clocking 2:24:04 ahead of Kenyan-born Bahraini Eunice Kirwa and reigning world champion Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia.
The same performance was replicated in the men’s marathon where Eliud Kipchoge enjoying the form of his life managed Kenya’s second ever Olympic men’s marathon medal, eight years since the late Samuel Wanjiru won Kenya’s first.
Another first in the Olympics was with Julius Yego who managed to seal a silver medal in the javelin, defying an injury in his second throw to win his first ever Olympic medal.
-Cheruiyot blazes Ayana-
Still hurting after losing out the 10,000m gold to Ethiopian Almaz Ayana, Vivian Cheruiyot produced one of her finest performances, blazing the Ethiopian out of the race in the 5,000m race for her first ever Olympic gold.
The ‘pocket rocket’ as he is known as announced her departure from the track by showing a clean pair of heels to Ayana and led a Kenyan1-2 finish with Hellen Obiri coming through behind her for silver.
-Kipyegon, Nyairera impress in Olympics-
Commonwealth Games champion Faith Kipyegon returned to Olympics with a bang, putting up another superb performance to clinch the 1500m gold, upstaging Ethiopia’s world record holder, Genzebe Dibaba.
Kipyegon. 22, was excited to pick her first ever Olympic medal, and better was that it was gold.
“I didn’t believe that I could actually do it. I just kept pushing on and on and I got it,” she said after the race.
Margrate Nyairera, also in her first Olympics ensured she never returned home empty handed as she picked bronze in the 800m behind winner Caster Semenya and Francine Niyonsaba.
-Kiyeng loses to ex-Kenyan Jebet-
Perhaps the biggest conversation that came off the Rio Olympics emanated from the women’s 3000m Steeplechase when Kenyan-born Bahraini Ruth Jebet beat compatriot Hyvin Kiyeng for the gold.
Jebet showed class, winning the race comfortably for Bahrain, a country in which she decided to turn out for at the age of 16.
The race brought out loads of conversation over the contentious issue of nationality changes with Athletics Kenya announcing they were going to tighten rules on switching nationalities.
-Rudisha shows he is still the King-
Despite suffering a tough season trying to rise back to form from injury, David Lekuta Rudisha showed he is still the king of 800m by easing to his second consecutive Olympic gold.
His quest for the double was boosted with the absence of his perennial competitors Botswana’s Nijel Amos and Mohammed Amman of Ethiopia who both never made it to the final.
-Conseslus beats ‘Baba Yao’ Kemboi-
Before the Olympics, two-time 3000m steeplechase gold medalist Ezekiel ‘Baba Yao’ Kemboi had announced he will be retiring after the Rio games, but he never anticipated to get a DQ (Disqualification) at the end of the water and barrier race.
Kemboi’s results were nullified after being adjudged to have stepped off the sector in a successful appeal launched by Frenchman Mekhisi Benabbad.
Kemboi had already been upset by youngster Conseslus Kipruto who is seen as the heir to his thrown and thought the bronze was a good consolation, up until the Frenchman made the claim.
So angry was Kemboi that he threw off the window his plans for retirement saying he wants to call it quits with the Kenyan national anthem blazing in the background, setting his sights on the 2017 World Championships in London.
-Men disappoint in long-distance races-
The only downside to Kenya’s performance in Rio was the inability of the men to tick the right boxes in the long distance races.
Only Paul Tanui (10,000m) brought home a medal from this race, once again Kenya falling to the might of the Ethiopians. Bedan Karoki and Geofgfrey Kamworor finished a disappointing seventh and 11th consecutively.
It was worse in the 5,000m with no Kenyan managing to get off the first round.
-Anti-doping menace pre-Olympics-
The country’s participation in the Rio games had earlier come under threat due to a looming ban over the Anti-Doping law, but a series of shuttle diplomacy which involved the ministry of Foreign Affairs saw Kenya’s looming ban from the World Anti Doping Agency lifted.
Kenya had been placed under the WADA watch-list and to make things worse, the Anti-Doping body wasn’t pleased with the initial law passed by parliament and it had to take a second round of debate to ensure the law aligned to WADA’s code.
-THREE KENYANS BITE PIECE OF DIAMOND LEAGUE CAKE-
Still on track, Kenyan athletes also did well in the IAAF Diamond League, three of them managing to get a share of the final loot.
Abel Kiprop upstaged Elijah Manang’oi to take home the honors in the 1500m with 42 points after winning four of the nine Diamond League races. Conseslus Kipruto was more emphatic in the steeplechase, winning seven of the eight Diamond League races to finish the season on 70 points.
Ferguson Rotich as well was the winner in the 800m, much thanks to the fitness concerns surrounding the king of the race David Rudisha by finishing on 39 points, 10 ahead of Frenchman Pierre Ambroise-Bosse.
None of the women managed a share of the big prize. Eunice Sum and Margaret Nyairera finished third and fifth in the 800m, Hyvin Kiyeng was second in the steeplechase, Faith Kipyegon second in the 1500m, same as Hellen Obiri in the 5000m.
-KENYANS RULE ON THE ROAD-
It was not only on track that Kenyan athletes showed their prowess. They were emphatic on the road as well.
The season started off perfectly with Kenya ruling the world in the IAAF World Half Marthon Championship in Cardiff, United Kingdom, winning both the men and women team titles.
Geoffrey Kamworor upstaged Mo Farah in his first major test on the road, winning the gold medal ahead of compatriot Bedan Karoki.
The women swept the medal table, little known Peres Jepchirichir leading Cynthia Limo and Mary Wacera across the finish line.
In the major marathons, Kenyans still ruled the world with Eliud Kipchoge and Jemimah Sumgong winning the London marathon titles.
But at the Berlin Marathon, Kenenisa Bekele pipped former World record holder Wilson Kipsang in the men’s race while Janet Ronoh was the best female finisher, coming in sixth place.
In Chicago though, Kenyans were dominant, sweeping the first five positions, led by former World Champion Abel Kirui. In the women’s race, Florence Kiplagat led a top four finish for the Kenyans.
In New York, it was the women who did the honors, Mary Keitany winning for third consecutive time ahead of Sally Kipyego while Lucas Rotich finished second in the men’s race behind Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea.
Hellah Kiprop won in Tokyo while in the men’s race, Dickson Chumba and Bernard Kipyego finished behind Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lelisa.