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Kenyan Rio Olympics to now start proper with athletics programme

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Hopes of Kenya widening its medal haul to boxing and rugby will not be achieved in Rio, but that has not dampened the spirits of fans as they prepare to usher in track and field stars for the gold rush starting Friday.

One week since the Olympics started, Kenyan fans are yet to feel the mood of the Olympics. The small hope they had on rugby sevens was blown when the national team Shujaa was humiliated in the group stage matches by New Zealand, Japan and England.

Now to majority may the real Olympic begin as the track and field programme kicks off Friday with double finals that local athletes will be featuring in.

World 10,000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot has the country holding their breath in anticipation as she launches her quest for double gold.

She will be the lead candidate in Friday’s final together with Betsy Saina and Africa champion Alice Aprot.

Speaking on phone on Thursday, head coach Julius Kirwa said Kenya will always be under pressure in big competition and Rio Olympics will be no different.

"Everyone is in Rio Olympics with an aim to win.

"Of course we have a strong team and Cheruiyot is in good shape.

"But that does not mean that we have the gold in the bag.

'She has to fight for it and use the other colleagues (Saina and Aprot) to make sure we have a good team work," he said.

Indeed Cheruiyot has been dreaming of winning double gold at the Olympics.

She made her first attempt at the double five years ago in Daegu, South Korea during the World Championships and emerged successful winning both the 10,000m and 5,000m races.

Her quest for similar success in London 2012, ended with a silver (5,000m) and bronze (10,000m).

But that did not stop her. In her last shot at the Olympics, she turns 32 next month, Cheruiyot wants to silence her critics.

She has just returned from maternity and proved her fitness at the Beijing World Championships last year winning gold.

"I always run my own race and in Rio, it will be the same thing.

"I want to win and I feel am in the same shape as was the case in 2011," said Cheruiyot before going to Rio.

Therefore while Saina and Aprot have the chance to win medals too, the focus will be on Ethiopian pair of defending champion Tirunesh Dibaba, world leader Almaz Ayana and Gelete Burka.

Uganda too has an outside chance of staging a surprise as they have Juliet Chekwel.

Alongside the 10,000m final, African champion Samuel Gathimba and Simon Wachira will take to the road in the 20km walk.

Olympic champion David Rudisha will also start the defence of his title in round one of the men 800m. Another race with Kenyan interest will be the 1,500m women where world silver medalist Faith Chepngetich leads Kenya’s chase for glory.


Kenyans bracing to root for athletes at start of Olympic track events

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Friday will mark one week since the 2016 Rio Olympic Games kicked off in Brazil.

However, Kenyans are eagerly waiting for the commencement of the track and field events on Friday where the country has prospects of winning medals.

One place where residents will be watching the races with keen interest and relish is Iten town, located in the Great Rift Valley.

It has always been a trend during subsequent events at the Olympic Games for Kenyan runners to win medals in track and field where they have never failed to win an Olympic gold since the country first participated at the global competition in 1956.

Whereas other nations have already won medals from ‘fringe’ events, Kenyans back home will from henceforth start flocking social joints to watch live televised coverage of the races as they share the excitement with each other.

Former 10,000m world champion, Moses Tanui, told Xinhua on Thursday he will host his friends and fellow athletes at his hotel in Eldoret, aptly named Grand Prix, to watch and cheer Team Kenya during their exploits.

"Even though our cheering will not amount to much because the runners will not be in a position to hear our loud encouragement, nonetheless, we will perform the task in what we consider to be patriotic duty," he said.

Former world marathon record holder, Wilson Kipsang said he will make time to watch the live proceedings alongside his compatriots in Iten town, popularly referred to as the ‘Home of Champions’ at his facility, Keelu Resort.

"Watching the men’s marathon finals is ‘a must’ undertaking with a group of marathon runners during which we will strategize against the those runners who we will run against after the Olympics in upcoming races," he told Xinhua in Iten.

Most of the runners who comprise the Kenyan contingent are either natives of the municipality or have adopted the high altitude town as their training base.

The small borough, which stands at 7,900ft above-sea-level, is favored by many Kenyan elite middle and long-distance runners for being one of the best places to train due to the advantage they derive from high altitude training, its tranquility, the perfect climate and the great dirt trails.

Almost all of Kenya’s top athletes have at one time or the other hugged the hilly terrain when preparing for international races.

Defending 1,500m Olympic champion, Asbel Kiprop, his teammate in the event, Ronald Kwemoi, 5,000m contestant Charles Mneria and a host of other runners Xinhua met in the town before the team flew to Rio, all said their training programs went according to plan.

"We did not leave early with the other members of the team because we wanted to derive maximum benefit from the high altitude training and fly to the Olympic city with only a few days remaining for competition for the purposes of acclimatizing," Mneria said.

Long distance athletics coach, Elias Kiptum, said many athletics clubs have set base in the area where they assist their charges with amenities like rent, food and training kit so that the runners carry out full time training.

"The weather in Iten is relatively stable and everyone around seems to have caught the running bug. Currently there are over 3,000 first-class runners around," Kiptum said.

Iten’s journey to fame started many years ago, when an Irish teacher Colm O’Connel, who was the principal of the local St. Patrick’s High School, discovered that many of his students had a talent for running.

He organized running camps during the school holidays for the talented runners from his school and those from other parts of Kenya.

The town grew as more and more runners made the town there adopted home and some even settled permanently there.

For the past 30 years, all of Kenya’s world and Olympic champions have trained in Iten. They include Wilson Kipketer and David Rudisha, (800m); Wilson Kipsang, Abel Kirui, Florence Kiplagat, Edna Kiplagat and Mary Keitany (Marathon) and Asbel Kiprop (1,500m) to name but a few.


Uganda puts hope in Mutai in Rio Olympic Games

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- Uganda is pinning its medal hopes at the ongoing Rio Olympic Games on marathon aces Munyo Mutai and Stephen Kiprotich.

Kiprotich, 27, will look to defend his 2012 London title in Rio while he has to be aware of the strong challenge from his younger teammate Mutai.

Sports officials in the east African country said that the 23-year old athlete has higher chances of putting up a tough competition against runners from Kenya, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

"I think Mutai has all it takes to win an Olympic medal. He has trained hard and has been improving every time," William Blick, Uganda Olympic Committee President, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Mutai, bronze medalist at last year’s Beijing world championships, is confident he is up to the task.

"I now have the experience and know what to expect.

"I feel I have trained well and should be able to win Uganda a medal," Mutai told Xinhua on Tuesday.

Uganda sent a contingent of 21 athletes to Rio to compete in boxing, swimming and athletics.

Flagging off the team on Aug. 5, the country’s President Yoweri Museveni said sports can bring fame both to the individual and the country.

The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Janet Museveni, told the team that the country has hope in it.

"We are proud that you will represent the country and the fact that this year, they have sent the biggest number than before," she said.

Already with swimmer Jamila Lunkuse failing to go past the preliminary round of the 100m breaststroke and boxer Kennedy Katende losing in the light heavy weight on Sunday, 19 athletes remain chasing for Rio medals.

Uganda first won a gold medal in 1972 after the late John Akii Bua won the 400m race in the Munich Olympics.

Kiprotich was the second to win a gold medal after he claimed the 2012 London Olympic marathon title.



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