Anxiety over Kenya runners' prospects in 800m at Olympics
Nairobi, July 28 (IANS) In every big competition, Kenyans look to dominate the 800 metres distance but that may not be the case this time as the country focuses on the Rio Olympic Games starting on August 5.
Kenya's prospects lie in defending men's champion David Rudisha and world junior women's champion Margaret Wambui Nyairera, reports Xinhua.
The two carry the country's hopes, but there is more challenge to their domination, which has left many wondering if they will indeed make the cut.
"Our teams in 800m are strong and it is not going to be easy for them like before to walk through the pack and stake their claim to the gold," Julius Kirwa, the Kenya team head coach said on Wednesday from Iten.
"This time round, Rudisha has a mountain to climb and so will be Nyairera. But that is what makes sports unpredictable and enjoyable, that you cannot rule out anyone and everyone is a winner at the Olympics," Kirwa added.
Rudisha, ever since he sustained a knee injury two seasons ago, has remained a pale shadow of his former self.
But he redeemed himself in Beijing last year to weather the storm and win gold and reclaim his title in the 800m race.
"Never let difficult circumstances dictate or dampen your spirit. Yes you will be stretched but never broken. I have done my training and I am feeling better each day. I will do my best and let the others do their part, but I believe I have what it takes to win in Rio," said Rudisha.
Indeed, Rudisha showed his pace when he set a world leading time at the Istvan Gyulai Memorial meeting in Budapest, Hungary clocking 1:43:35 minute.
But the race lacked some of his most critical enemies on the track like Ferguson Rotich, who beat him at the Kenyan trials, Mohammed Amman (Ethiopia) and Olympic silver medallist Nigel Amos.
In the women's race, Kenya has pinned its hopes on Nyairera, yet nobody is talking about the country's latest prodigy as a possible gold medal prospect. But the 20-year-old is relishing the underdog role and taking everything a step at a time.
"Everybody wants to get victory in the Olympics Games next month. I will do my best so that I get to the final," said Nyairera.
The focus of course has been on Caster Semenya, the Olympic silver medallist, who clocked a world lead time of 1:55.33 at the Monaco Diamond League two weeks ago.
In the race, Nyairera was third clocking 1:58 while Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba was sandwiched in between.
"Semenya is a headache for us as a team. We hope to get to the final first and run as one team so that we can give her a hard time," said Nyairera, who will team up with former world champion Eunice Sum and Winnie Chebet in the two-lap race.