Make no mistake! Kenya is not sending a second-string marathon team to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July, Athletics Kenya (AK) has assured.
AK Senior Vice-President Paul Mutwii says the selected team features big city marathon winners who, in their own right, are world-class and have earned qualification to the Birmingham Games that will run from July 28 to August 8.
Mutwii spoke after handing over the marathon team to the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) to launch preparations for the Birmingham Games at a ceremony held in Eldoret today.
AK have been faced with the major challenge of picking teams for the Commonwealth Games and the World Athletics Championships, the latter competition coming just days ahead of the Birmingham Games.
Eugene in Oregon State, USA, will host the World Athletics Championships from July 15 to 24, the championships closing just four days ahead of the Commonwealth Games’ opening ceremony.
“Athletics Kenya has always sent a strong team to the Commonwealth Games and more often than not, most medals – sometimes all medals – are won by our athletes,” Mutwii said.
“We enjoy a good relationship with NOC-K and wanted to make sure we give them the best team so that preparations can start early.”
NOC-K President Paul Tergat, a track, cross country and marathon legend, thanked AK for handing over the team early and urged the athletes to maintain discipline.
“I’ve been there before… wearing national colours comes with special responsibilities and I urge you to focus on your careers first and other things will follow,” Tergat said.
He also urged the athletes to train clean, run clean and avoid taking shortcuts to success.
“We will give you the necessary support, make sure your allowances are paid in time, starting from today, and that you get all the kits that you need. Delays are a thing of the past.”
NOC-K Secretary General Francis Mutuku said the selected team will train at their individual bases for the next 30 days before convening at a central camp.
John Ogolla, Team Kenya’s Chef de Mission to the Commonwealth Games urged the team to target the best ever performance at the Games.
Also present at the ceremony was NOC-K executive committee member and AK’s head of the youth committee Barnaba Korir, the Commonwealth Games athletics team manager Samson Katam, AK athlete’s representative Milcah Chemos and the pool of coaches led by Patrick Sang and David Letting.
Jonathan Korir, winner of last year’s Amsterdam Marathon, and who trains in Eliud Kipchoge’s Global Sports Communication camp in Kaptagat, is the fastest in the men’s team with a personal best time of two hours, four minutes and 32 seconds clocked in the Dutch capital.
“We are grateful to have been selected in this team and we shall not disappoint,” Korir said, straight to the point.
Maurine Chepkemoi, who also won in Amsterdam last year alongside Korir with a PB of 2:20:18, headlines the women’s team that also includes last year’s Rotterdam Marathon champion Stella Barsosio (2:22:08).
Also in the team is Margaret Wangare, winner of the 2020 Los Angeles Marathon and 2019 Honolulu Marathon, and she is equally upbeat.
“We want to promise you that we shall come back with the medals, and not only the gold, but we shall fight for a clean sweep,” Wangare assured.
The Kenya marathon team to the Commonwealth Games (and their personal best times):
Philemon Kacheran (2:05:19, Valencia, 2021)
Jonathan Korir (2:04:32, Amsterdam, 2021
Eric Kiptanui (2:05:47, Siena, 2021)
Michael Githae (2:07:51, Fukuoka, 2021)
Maurine Chepkemoi (2:20:18, Amsterdam, 2021)
Purity Changwony (2:22:16, Siena, 2021)
Margaret Wangare (2:29:29, Los Angeles, 2020)
Stella Barsosio (2:22:08, Rotterdam, 2021)