Kenya says still way behind sprint giants US, Jamaica

Eldoret (Kenya), Sep 8 (IANS) Athletics Kenya (AK) officials are pouring cold water on the country’s blooming sprint talents, saying they are still miles away from matching the dominance of Jamaica and the United States.

AK president Isaiah Kiplagat said more cash, technical support and equipment are required to boost the sprint athletes if they are to maintain and take their challenge to the door steps of their giant rivals Jamaica and the US, reports Xinhua.

“It takes a lot of resources and time to bring up a single sprint or field event athlete. What we have seen in Beijing World Championships is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of talent blooming. But it requires more money and perseverance to help one athlete reach the international stage,” Kiplagat said on Tuesday in Eldoret.

In the Beijing World Championships, Nicholas Bett and Julius Yego wrote history to become the first Kenyan athletes to win gold in 400 metres hurdles and javelin respectively.

While Yego’s rise has been steady and gradual, the emergence of Bett to conquer the 400 metres hurdles has prompted a rummage through the history of what has gone in the bringing up of the athlete including his training camp in Finland and South Africa.

“Their success is more of individual effort, and they hold the small percentage of athletes who are coming through the ranks keen to go wide off the traditional races associated with Kenya,” Kiplagat said.

“We have so many of them who are yet to be tapped and if we get equipment and tartan in more towns, they will be more churned off the production line,” he added.

Kiplagat said Kenya can dominate at the Rio Olympics only if the government helps them train sprinters and field event athletes by organising exchange programmers with other countries who wish to exploit middle and long distance races.

Meanwhile, AK wants the government to speed up the setting up of a local testing centre for anti-doping to cut down on the cost of sending the same to Johannesburg, where there is the only certified World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) laboratory.

Kiplagat wants the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) be strengthened with the assistance of South Africa, China and Norway to build capacity to answer to the requirements of WADA.

In Beijing, two Kenyan sprinters — 400 metres hurdler Francisca Koki and Joyce Zakary (400 metres) — failed doping tests.

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