Kenya’s fortress in long distance races threatened, warns coach Kirwa

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Nairobi, Aug 16 (IANS) Kenya must raise its bar higher if it is to remain at the apex of middle and long distance athletics despite scooping 11 medals at the London World Championships.

Head coach Julius Kirwa said that despite finishing second to giants like the United States, who accumulated 30 medals, Kenya must dig deep and embrace science in its training and planning if it is to remain a force to reckon with at future championships, reports Xinhua news agency.

Speaking on arrival here on Tuesday, Kirwa said rival countries have raised the stakes and Kenya is no longer safe in protecting its fortress in middle and long distance races and must strive harder and take the challenge to their opponents.

“The team did well and the results are all up there to be seen. We lost in some events because of poor planning or lack of tactics or fitness. But in general getting five gold medals is no mean feat,” Kirwa said here on Tuesday.

“What we want is to see how to improve on this performance. We must have a level playing field with our opponents or get an edge over them. It is no longer about nature, but about getting that killer instinct and doing the job right in training.”

The Kenya team, which arrived here on Tuesday was received with a red carpet and attended a state banquet in the city.

“Our country is healing from the general elections aftermath and sports is one area that unifies us. Let us embrace each other and move forward as a country. We are all Kenyans,” said the coach.

Kenya finished second in the standings with 11 medals (five gold, two silver and four bronze). This was a drop in the medals haul compared to Beijing 2015 where Kenya topped the medal standings for the first time in the history of the championships.

Two years ago in the Chinese capital, Kenya grabbed 16 medals — seven gold, six silver and three bronze.

The team, led by head coach Kirwa streamed out of the International Arrivals hall as journalists and relatives braved the morning cold to welcome them.

Two out of the five gold medallists, Elijah Manangoi (1500) and Geoffrey Kirui (marathon) were part of the delegation that arrived.

The others Hellen Obiri (5,000 metre), Consenlus Kipruto (3,000 metre steeplechase) and Faith Chepng’etich (1,500) did not return as they proceeded to Birmingham for Friday’s Diamond League.

Kirwa termed the London event as one of the toughest but expressed satisfaction with the team’s performance.

“We were not able to defend our title but we are proud of our performances and thank God for the chance,” Kirwa said.

–IANS

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