Kenyan giants sweating on Rio Olympics chances

Tue Jun 28, 2016 2:18pm EDT
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By Isaack Omulo

ELDORET, Kenya Jun 28 (Reuters) - Some of Kenya's most celebrated athletes' reputations will be on the line when they compete in the country's Olympic trials on Thursday and Friday, just weeks before the start of the Rio Games.

The trials will be held at the high-altitude North Rift Valley town of Eldoret, some 350km north west of the capital, Nairobi, home to some of the world's finest middle- and long-distance athletes.

But whether the current generation of giants will secure their passage to Rio is far from certain, given the trials' reputation for ruthlessness and competitiveness.

They are being staged against the backdrop of doping scandals that have beset the nation and still hang over athletes’ heads like Damocles' sword.

More than 40 Kenyan athletes have been banned for failed drugs tests in the past four years and last week world athletics chiefs said Kenyan and Russian athletes hoping to participate at the Rio Olympics, which begin on Aug. 5, would have to undergo further doping tests.

Attention on the track is expected to focus on reigning Olympic champions David Rudisha (800m) and Ezekiel Kemboi (3,000m steeplechase), and a sprinkling of world champions who could be brought to their knees by hungry and ambitious young runners.

“I have watched Rudisha this season and I am not sure if he has the fire in his belly that propelled him to Olympic glory and a world record four years ago,” Robert Ouko, winner of Olympic 4x400m gold medal in 1972, told Reuters.

“His saving grace could be the selection criterion set by Athletics Kenya (AK), where a third athlete is selected on merit,” he said.   Continued...

Aug 25, 2015; Beijing, China; David Rudisha (KEN) takes a victory lap with Kenyan flag after winning the 800m in 1:45.84 during the IAAF World Championships in Athletics at National Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports