NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 6- “I feel like I am in Jerusalem right now. I am so joyful. I have always wanted a chance to wear that Kenyan jersey in an international competition and now I have it. I feel great,” – Those were the words of Edward Zakayo on June 14, 2017 when he made it into Kenya’s team for the IAAF World Under-18 Championships that were held in Nairobi.
He went on to win silver behind Ethiopia’s Salemon Barega in the 3,000m, but Kenyans will most vividly remember him for his ‘last man standing’ viral photo of him walking chest high with fellow competitors strewn on the Kasarani turf gasping for breath.
A year and roughly two months later, the 18-year old’s life has taken a twist that not even he could have thought would script the way it has. Back in June last year, Zakayo was yet to ever drape in the Kenyan jersey and even wearing spikes was more of a foreign thing to him.
Fast forward and on his neck currently, he has added on a World Junior title won in Tampere, Finland, a Commonwealth Games Bronze medal won in Gold Coast, Australia and lately, the African Senior 5,000m title won in Asaba, Nigeria on Sunday evening.
Stuff of dreams!
The native of Loita Plains in Narok South does not plan to stop here as he says his career is just but taxing on the runway as it heads to bigger heights and unchartered skies. His next big plot; the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha Qatar and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
“I think I am headed somewhere. My next plan is to go back home and continue training hard because I want to do well next year at the World Championship and my long-term target is the Olympics in 2020,” Zakayo said as he soaked in his win in Asaba on Sunday.
The Kenyan beat Ethiopia’s Barega for a second consecutive time, crossing the finish line in in 13:48.58 ahead of Ethiopia’s Getaneh Molla who clocked 13:49.06 with Eritrea’s Yemane Haileselassie taking bronze in 13:49.58.
Looking back, Zakayo said he was in high spirits even before the race and did not let the hulabaloo of a two-day painstaking wait in Lagos for a connecting flight to Asaba get to his nerves.
He admitted though he missed training partner and friend Stanley Waithaka who finished behind him in both the Under-18 and Under-20 Championships.
“The race was very good and I enjoyed running. Tactically, I think I got things okay. When we came, there were many challenges that we faced but for me, they didn’t bother much because the only thing on my mind was getting to Asaba for the race. I knew I could win,”
“I thank my teammates for the work we put in, but to be honest I missed my usual coordination with Waithaka,” he further added.
Meanwhile, Zakayo has thanked Athletics Kenya for ‘blocking’ some of his planned Diamond League races this year, saying that helped him to keep in shape. He also says he will minimize the number of Diamond League races he runs next season in the build up to the World Championships.
“When the invites came, Athletics Kenya decided to hold back and I think it was good, it helped me stay in shape. I will run in one or two Diamond League races next year just to keep shape,” he further added.
Meanwhile, the team is expected back home Monday night and will be hosted for Dinner by Athletics Kenya at a Nairobi Hotel.