London the aim for Oregon-bound Kenyans

NAIROBI - In a bid to have the best possible chance of a medal sweep in the 10,000 meters at the London Games, 14 Kenyan runners head to the United States to take part in their first Olympic trial outside of the east African nation.

Kenya's athletics chiefs decided to hold their Olympics 10,000m trials at the low altitude venue of Oregon at the IAAF Diamond League meeting on Friday.


Men's 10,000m medallist (L-R) Sileshi Sihine of Ethiopia (silver), compatriot Kenenisa Bekele (gold) and Micah Kogo of Kenya (bronze) pose on the podium during the medals ceremony of the athletics competition in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Aug 18, 2008 file photo.

The idea of switching venues away from the high altitude of Nairobi is to ensure the best athletes represent Kenya in London rather than the ones who adapt to the conditions best on the day, but then fail to bring home gold.

"This will be the like the Olympic final. I can say the top three in Oregon can easily be the top three at the Olympics in London," Titus Mbishei, a former world junior silver medallist in cross country and track, told Reuters at their camp in Nairobi shortly before departing for the United States.

The team of 14 also includes Micah Kogo, bronze medallist in the Beijing Olympics four years ago, Moses Masai and his younger brother Dennis Masai.

Others are African champion Wilson Kiprop, former world 5,000m champion Eliud Kipchoge, Mark Kiptoo, Josephat Bett, Emmanuel Bett, Lukas Rotich, Mike Kigen, Bedan Karoki, Paul Tanui and reigning African junior champion Geoffrey Kirui.

The runners came through a pre-trial in Nairobi last month at which only the 14 participants turned up from the expected figure of 33 meaning they all qualified for Oregon.

Kogo, who finished sixth in the Nairobi trials, was guarded in his aims for gold, choosing to focus on Oregon before dreaming about the London Olympics. Like Mbishei, he thinks the trials will be much harder than the Olympics.

Moses Masai could be considered amongst the favorites to qualify having run the fastest time among the 14 this year. Masai ran 28:10 to win the Nairobi race last month but the majority of the 14 have personal bests averaging 26 minutes.

"We have trained for two months and I expect the race to be very fast. I expect a number of personal best times, too," said 19-year-old Kirui.

The athletes have all welcomed the switch in venue and altitude to determine who will go to London but the idea, although a first for Kenya, is not a new one.

Ethiopia, for whom Kenenisa Bekele and Sihine Shileshi claimed a one-two in the men's 10,000 meters at the Beijing Games, also have their trials outside of Africa.

"Ethiopians select their teams for 5,000m and 10,000m for major global championships in Hengelo, Netherlands, and sometimes in Oregon, where Eritreans also selected their team for last year's World Championships," Kiptoo, who was fourth at the trials, told Reuters.

"I am positive we shall have a good team."

Kenya will select the rest of the team for the London Games on June 23.

( Agencies)