Disappointment: Kenya count cost after Rabat games
While Team Kenya CEO Charles Nyaberi lauded the squad for the exemplary performance in the just-concluded African Games in Morocco after bagging 31 medals, there is still a feeling of disappointment.
Kenya won 11 gold, 10 silver and as many bronze medals but the number could have been higher had they performed well in some events.
The country missed out on gold in women’s 3,000m steeplechase, unheard of in the recent past, women’s half marathon, men’s 5,000m, men’s and women’s 10,000m and women’s 800m.
While losing out on the others can be forgiven given Kenya’s recent struggles in those disciplines, missing gold in women’s steeplechase was the most painful.
This was occasioned by the absence of world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, who like many big names, opted for the more lucrative IAAF Diamond League as well as preparations for the World Championships, coming up at the end of this month in Doha, Qatar.
It is not hard to understand why the continental games did not appeal to the star athletes. While African Games medallists have to wait for the government to reward them after the event, something that takes months or even years, winning one of the 16 Diamond League legs nets $10,000 (Sh1 million) with a further US$40,000 (Sh4 million) going to whoever emerges champion in each discipline at the end of the season.
That meant Kenya had to field largely inexperienced athletes who struggled in some key events.
However, it was not all gloom in Morocco as Kenya won medals in volleyball (one gold), boxing (one silver and four bronze), tae -kwon-do (two silver), swimming (one bronze) and mountain bike (one bronze).
“In 2015, track and field yielded Kenya’s five of the six gold with the women’s volleyball team providing the other one. While Malkia Strikers defended their title, there were five more medals from athletics,” said Nyaberi, referring to the last edition of the games held in Congo Brazzaville.
But while the big names who snubbed the event were missed, those who replaced them took their chances. Javelin, for instance, saw Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) man Alexander Kiprotich claim silver behind gold medallist Julius Yego, his first-ever medal for Kenya after his 77:50m throw while little-known Venice Kerubo won an unlikely gold in the women’s 400m hurdles.