NAIROBI, Kenya: Aug. 13 (Xinhua) — In 2004, Kenya’s athletics empire was believed to be on its sunset days. The poor performance at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and 2005 Athletics World Championships seemed to lend credence to Kenya’s then dwindling fortunes.
Each day, Ethiopian athletes humiliated Kenyans with monotonous regularity with Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba being the two Ethiopian male and female athletes who comprehensibly boxed Kenyans out of the gold medals in the 5,000 and 10,000m races.
The question then was: has the Kenyan empire crumbled as a result of flouting the principles upon which it was built or has Ethiopia simply built a strong and better empire than Kenya’s.
However, Kenya’s strong showing at the Beijing Olympic Games and the 2011 Athletics World Championships in Daegu firmly placed it on the driving seat of athletics in Africa and the world.Just as the country was beginning to celebrate its improved fortunes, the 2012 London Olympic Games beckoned where Kenya performed dismally, by the country’s standards that saw it bag only two gold medals out of a projected 8 golds in the 3,000m steeplechase and 800m via Ezekiel Kemboi and David Rudisha respectively.
“In attempting to explain Kenya’s poor performance, athletics officials used to blame poor preparations of athletes and outdated equipment,” athletics coach Stephen Mwaniki said on Monday.
By clinging to the poor preparation and poor equipment line, Mwaniki said, one wonders what equipment in addition to the normal spikes, vest and light training gear an athlete needed to win a race.
“Athletics is not like cycling where the choice of a racing bicycle might mean the difference between winning and losing. Why did Kenya have to prepare well to get into the final but lack the preparation to win? There must be some other explanation.
“Mwaniki says that the problem was “in both strategic and tactical manoeuvers in addition to the wrong frames of mind on the part of athletes,” he told Xinhua recently.
“Kenyans lost races to their opponents because of poor tactics. A close analysis of Kenyan runners revealed athletes who did the donkey work of setting the pace for their opponents but allowed their opponents to outsprint them on the last kick,”said Mwaniki.
“As middle and long distances races somehow nowadays get reduced into sprint finishes, Kenyan runners had no sting to it,”he added. Mathew Birir, gold medal winner in the 3,000m steeplechase at the 1998 Atlanta Olympic Games, said a close analysis of Ethiopian runners reveals athletes who are trained to run a tactical race as a team but still aim at nothing less than the gold medal as individuals.
“Even where they are assured of a clean sweep of the medals on offer, each would go for the gold. Kenyans on their part would compete against an individual instead of going for the gold and by so doing they forgot that the other athletes other than their target also stood a chance to win the gold.”
Kenyan runners seemed to have since perfected the final kick problem as was seen during the 2008 Berlin World Championships where Linet Masai applied it on the Ethiopian duo of Meselech Melkamu and Wude Ayalew in the 10,000m finals and Vivian Cheruiyot and Sylvia Jebiwott also turned tables on Mesert Defar in the 5,000m.
And now with the 2012 Games over amid lackluster performance, all fingers are pointing at the management that has been accused locally as having mistreated and abandoned athletes in training camps as they scrambled for the 300 U.S. dollars per diem out-of-station allowances in London. (Xinhua)