“We’ll be competing against ourselves,” is how Mark Chumo, who works at the association, candidly puts it.
EVENT: 2017 IAAF World Cross Country Championships
HOST: Kampala, UGANDA
VENUE: Kololo Independence Grounds
WHEN: Today (March 26)
No other team in the IAAF world Cross Country Championships has a more compelling story than Kenya.
Take, for instance, the fact that there will be more natural-born Kenyans running for other countries in today’s event than their mother land.
“There are almost 40 Kenyans running for other countries,” observed Isaiah Kojwong, chairman of the association of Kenyans in Uganda, as he relaxed in the lounge of Imperial Royale Hotel after welcoming Team Kenya to Kampala late Friday night.
“We’ll be competing against ourselves,” is how Mark Chumo, who works at the association, candidly put it.
Of course, all that is the result of Kenya’s historical greatness in athletics and especially long distance running.
At the last World Athletics Championships, Kenya topped the medal standings in a feat of incredible magnitude but one that only heightened the poaching of Kenyan talent by Arab and Western countries.
Even the US, usually fiercely patriotic, has six runners of Kenyan origin in their cross country squad.
This new order suggests Kenya’s dominance of athletics is under threat because Kenya’s challenge has now spread beyond arch rivals Ethiopia and to a lesser extent Eritrea, Morocco or Algeria.
But such is the wealth of talent at Kenya’s disposal, that threat is not really a concern for the team that has come to Kampala looking to wrestle the overall winners’ title from Ethiopia.
“Our motto is to win,” Kenya coach Juma Ndiwa told Sunday Vision.
“Because we have trained and if you’ve trained, what’s next? It is to win. It’s not going to be easy but we shall fight,” Ndiwa said.
On the threat of ex Kenyans in rival teams, Ndiwa explained, “I know they’re good but I also know they fear our runners.
“But this is a war, so I can’t say we are going to sweep everything. We will only know after the race,” he said.
Kenya’s medal hopes are led by women’s and men’s senior defending champions Agnes Tirop and Geoffrey Kamwror respectively.
The former is looking to become the first back-to- back winner since Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba in 2005 and 2006.
The latter is looking to similarly win consecutive crowns since Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele snatched five straight victories from 2002 to 2006.
“Kamwror made it very clear that he’s not letting go of his title, “Kojwong joked.
But with Kenya, predictions are far from safe. More so now that Kenyan talent is no longer the reserve of one country.