Blundering Nock crushes spirits of departing athletes

Vivian Jepkemei Cheruiyot wins the 10,000m women finals race during day one of the National ...
Vivian Jepkemei Cheruiyot wins the 10,000m women finals race during day one of the National Trials for 2016 Rio Olympics Games held at Kipchoge Keino stadium in Eldoret, Kenya on June 30, 2016. Vivian Cheruiyot won the race in 31:36.60. Photo/Stafford Ondego/

What was meant to be the finest hour for members of the Kenyan track and field team for the Rio 2016 Olympics on Sunday morning as they left for Brazil quickly turned into a nightmare as blundering National Olympics Committee-Kenya (Nock) officials sparked controversy.

The third batch of the team containing the bulk of distance runners who are the country’s treasured medal hopefuls left the country with long faces amid high drama that saw the athletes initially refuse to board their flight to Luanda, Angola.

The low-key departure at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport turned scandalous when World Champion Julius Yego’s ticket went missing in unclear circumstances while his teammates Elijah Manangoi and Nock official; Catherine Ndereba encountered problems with theirs.

Before he discovered his ticket was missing, Yego was among the group that made their way to the airport by bus in high spirits.

You could see the admiration in the other athletes’ eyes as they intermingled with the ‘You Tube Man’ who from time to time would pause for a minute to share a hearty laugh with one of his colleagues.

The Kenyan sensation is one of the favourites in Javelin after his throw of 92.72m set an African record and clinched him the gold at the Beijing Championships.

He was optimistic that his hard work during the training camp will be enough to guide him to glory.

“Kenyans aren’t known for breaking barriers in the field events but that is slowly changing, we are moving from our traditional disciplines and trying to dive into other events as is the case with the sprinters like Bett and company.

“I don’t want to promise that I’ll break any records; my main focus is winning the gold medal. Keep us in you in your prayers and I am confident if I throw over 89 meters in Rio it will be enough to get me the gold,” the burly athlete underscored.

The trio of Mercy Cherono, Beatrice Chepkoech and Eunice Sum were the first athletes to arrive at the airport, adorned in Team Kenya ceremonial dress before heading straight for the departure terminal.

Rocking her trademark Kenyan-inspired hairstyle, Cherono, arguably Kenya’s track and field’s poster girl, stood out like a black swan in a flock of white as she attracted the gaze of curious onlookers.

The 2014 Commonwealth winner said she was honoured to be gracing her first Olympics and believes teamwork will be key in Team Kenya’s hunt for medals.

“I am proud to be representing my country and hopeful that when the tournament is over I will have something to look back to. This is my first Olympics because last time in London I was injured and could not participate and I thank God that I got this opportunity.

“When we go to Rio we plan to participate both as individuals and as a team,” she divulged before quickly walking straight into the terminal.

World Champion Vivian Cheruiyot came through a short while later flanked by her husband/coach Moses Kiplagat and son Allan Kiprono and the broad smile plastered on her face told it all.

The elated mother affectionately held her toddler and expressed how happy she was that her family came to see her off.

The double world champion will be looking to better her exploits in the 2012 games where she bagged silver and bronze in the 5000m and 10,000m.

The pint sized Pocket Rocket went on maternity leave after her double-distance winning heroics in the 2011 Worlds in Daegu before retuning with a bang at the Beijing Worlds last year where she added her fourth world title in the women 10,000m.

Despite running in three Summer Games; Sydney (2000), Beijing (2008) and London (2012), Cheruiyot is going for the only medal that is missing from her glittering collection- Olympics gold.

“I want to say to my fellow Kenyans that we are ready to work hard and that’s all I have for you now,” she offered before quickly checking in.

Olympic debutant Betsy Saina will be seeking glory in the women’s 10000m alongside Cheruiyot and African champion Alice Aprot.

The eloquent US-based athlete oozed confidence as she told of her preparations for the quadrennial event and how she is hopeful this time round the Rio bound team will trump London’s performance.

“The last three weeks have been good; we’ve been pushing ourselves to make sure we are in the best shape of our lives. We’ve been talking amongst ourselves encouraging each other and I really trust my teammates, it’s not going to be easy but I believe everyone is ready.

“I have never seen a team this motivated and our priority at the Olympics is to make sure that the 10,000m gold comes back to Kenya,” she revealed.

Athletics Kenya President, Lt. Gen (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei was among the officials at the airport to send off the contingent which mostly consisted of middle distance runners.

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Story By Eric Kagunda
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