Eldoret ready to make or break Rio 2016 dreams
The principal city of western Kenya and the self-styled ‘University of Champions’ Eldoret, is all set to fulfill or crush Rio 2016 dreams when the Kipchoge Keino Stadium turns into a battle ground in the ultimate race for Olympic tickets starting Thursday.
Kenya’s finest track and field athletes of the modern era have waited years, months, weeks and days to get the chance of making the celebrated team in what will be the final hurdle before booking their places for the Brazil Summer Games in what is expected to be a brutal contest.
Only the strongest, fittest and in some cases luckiest will survive with the two-day showdown expected to pull the biggest crowd ever gathered for a sporting event in the town that stands 2100m above sea-level but nothing on Wednesday gave a hint of what lies in store as final inspections were conducted by officials.
“Everything is ready. We are expecting great action starting Thursday and at the end, we shall select a strong team. We had a problem in the London Olympics because some athletes left late. Those who left early like (David) Rudisha and (Ezekiel) Kemboi brought home gold,” National Olympics Committee of Kenya (Nock) chairman, Dr. Kipchoge Keino said Wednesday after conducting a final inspection tour.
London 2012 gold medallist, Rudisha, who blasted to the astonishing 1:40.91 men 800mworld record and Kemboi, who majestically added his second Olympics crown after Athens 2004 in the steeplechase are among a Hollywood cast that will put their reputations on the line in Eldoret.
Other stars in the hunt include Beijing 2008 Olympics champions, Asbel Kiprop (men 1500m), Brimin Kipruto (men 3000m steeplechase) as well as world champions, Vivian Cheruiyot (women 10000m), Julius Yego (men Javelin), Nicholas Bett (men 400m Hurdles) and Hyvin Kiyeng (women 3000m).
Besides them, an imposing cast of medallists at the Olympics, IAAF World, Commonwealth and African championships as well as dark horses out to stun the order and crown their moment in the sun will form the formidable competition at an event that has earned a giant-killing reputation over the decades.
“The pressure is on the athletes since they will be performing at home with their wives, children, relatives and friends watching. They will be out to give their best since many will come here to watch them since they have only been seeing them on television,” national coach, David Letting, said.
“This is a fast track and although we are not going for records, we expect fast times and some of the athletes who do not have the qualifying times for the Olympics in sprint events for example could achieve them here,” the veteran tactician added.
Around him, workers were sprucing up the stadium in last minute preparations including adding fresh coats of paint in the main dais and amenities such as toilets in readiness for the surge of humanity expected to witness what organisers are saying will be a sporting spectacle never witnessed in the region.
The decision to host the Trials in Eldoret for the first time in the refurbished stadium ignited heated debate with some of the top athletes saying the stadium and facilities in place were not up to the standards of an event of such magnitude but the Nock boss discounted the notion.
“Before the 1968 Olympics Games, we held Trials in Nyahururu, Kisumu and Mombasa and the idea of having them outside Nairobi is to give other parts of the country a chance to see the runners who have made Kenya proud,” he insisted.
Electronic timing devices and equipment from reputed firm Mondo have been fitted as the red tartan of the stadium that is still not covered all round prepares for a heavy pounding.
One of the permanent goal posts that raised concerns among field athletes led by London 2012 fourth finisher, Yego has been removed as hundreds of journalists descended to the town to cover the hugely anticipated event.
The Trials come against the backdrop of Kenya being declared non-compliant by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) over the crisis that has seen over 40 of the country’s athletes suspended for doping violations.
As the nation strives to prove to the world that the storied history of Kenyan athletes is not drug-fueled, world governing body, IAAF has set up the most robust doping-control ever witnessed at the event with huge tents that will serve as anti-doping centres elected to the right side of the stadium.
In an effort to set high tempo for the showpiece, the first starting gun will go off at 9am local time (+3GMT) with the women 10000m final that according to the start list, will witness a titanic clash between Cheruiyot, a previous Olympics bronze and silver winner against Alice Aprot, the freshly-minted African champion.
However, coaches and Athletics Kenya (AK) officials intimated the latter could be given an Olympics wildcard after her exertions last Sunday where she powered to the African title in a world leading time.
“We are advising selectors to give her a rest because when you consider she won the National Championships, ran in South Africa and now here, that would be 40,000km covered in a month and it would be burn out,” Letting said.
Other luminaries in the line-up include Olympics silver medallist, US based Sally Kipyego, Linet Masai the 2009 world champion and former junior champion Irene Chebet Cheptai.
The two Olympics champions, Rudisha and Kemboi will launch the defence of their crowns in the men 800m and men 3000m steeplechase semi finals that will start at 2:30pm and 1pm in that order in the highlight events of the afternoon session.
Royal Media Services has pulled all stops and sent some of its finest sports gurus to bring the event live on Citizen TV, Radio Citizen and Chamgei FM with all other outlets airing regular updates as another moment in the country’s proud history goes down in Eldoret.
ORDER OF EVENTS THURSDAY
1000 hrs 10,000M Women Final
1300 hrs 3000M S/C Men Semi finals 1
1315 hrs 3000M S/C Men Semi finals 2
1315 hrs High Jump Men Final
1340 hrs 100MH Women Final
1400 hrs 110MH Men Final
1400 hrs Long Jump Men Final
1410 hrs 100M Women Final
1420 hrs 100M Men Final
1430 hrs 800M Men Semi finals 1
1440 hrs 800M Men Semi finals 2
1450 hrs 800M Men Semi finals 3
1500 hrs 1500M Men Semi finals 1
1510hrs 1500M Men Semi finals 2
1530hrs 5000M Men Final
For Citizen TV updates
Join @citizentvke Telegram channel
Video Of The Day: KEMRI scientists examine safety of anti-malarial drugs in first trimester of pregnancy