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Kenyan road runner Bedan Karoki has been based in Japan for the last 14 years and hopes he can compete at next year's Olympics which will be staged in Tokyo. PHOTO/Courtesy

Athletics

Japan-based Karoki still hungers for Olympic spot on ‘home soil’

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 11 – Despite being named in the reserve list for Kenya’s Marathon team to the Tokyo Olympic Games, Japan-based Kenyan distance runner Bedan Karoki is still hopeful he can squeeze into the final team for the Games which will now be held in 2021.

Karoki, based in Japan for the last 14 years says he wants to run and win an Olympic medal at ‘home’, this being the third time he competes at the quadrennial Games. He finished fifth and seventh respectively in the 10,000m at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

By now, Karoki, the 2016 World Half Marathon silver medalist and 2019 Tokyo silver medalist would have known whether his dream of a third Olympic would come true or not, but the surge of the novel coronavirus has necessitated the postponement of the Games to 2021.

Despite that, nothing is deterring Karoki’s dream.

“The Olympics were my biggest targets this season and that is all I was building up to. I had planned to run some two road races to prepare before giving my all to get into the final team. I am still dreaming of that especially now that the Olympics will be held in Japan. I would really love to run here, where I feel at home,” the 29-year old told Capital Sports from his base in Japan.

Bedan Karoki crosses the line to finish second at the 2019 Tokyo Marathon. PHOTO/Courtesy

“It was bitter-sweet when they announced postponement because it really throws your plans off the window and you are forced to re-think and re-strategize. But again, it is a good decision for our health,” he added.

Karoki has just recently moved from the capital Tokyo and now resides in Aichi, a Japanese prefecture in central Honshu Island. Its capital, Nagoya, is a manufacturing hub with a rich cultural heritage.

He has also changed employers and now runs for the Toyota Company, having previously worked with DeNa Company Limited in Tokyo.

In Aichi, he is with two other Kenyans, Nicholas Kosimbei and Alex Cherono.

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“I think I like this place more than Tokyo because it is less congested and you can actually train well. There is enough space at the company and we also have a track so training is easier. Still, we can’t train as normal because of the social distancing restrictions,”

“Only two people can train alongside each other. We all use the track at the same time but ensure we keep the social distance. The restrictions in the city have been eased up and at least we can move around to the shops and restaurants. The only thing we can’t do is move between cities,”

Bedan Karoki, Geoffrey Kamworor and Leonard Barsoton celebrate together after sweeping the table at the 2015 World Cross Country Championship in Guiyang, China. PHOTO/World Athletics

He says their program includes training twice a day on track and sometimes in the gym even as they look out for the end of the pandemic period before they can make plans for the new season.

“It is very hard to train without a target because sometimes, you lack the motivation. But we always cheer ourselves up because we are three here, we stay close to each other and we try to self-motivate. Sometimes you tend to feel down because of the uncertainties but we try to motivate each other,”

“We just want to maintain fitness, not to burn ourselves out a lot. Once this virus is over, we will look at the competitions that are there and for me, I want to run at least three road races before the Olympics,” Karoki noted.

He has admitted that the pandemic has caused a distressing period to many athletes with cancellation of events and reduced income, but at least for him and his fellow Japan-based colleagues, the comfort of employment has helped cushion them from possible struggle.

Even as he waits for the situation to be better, Karoki still has his eyes pegged on a place in the Olympics and he continues to keep himself fit.

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