Prisons athletes driven by the lure of Berlin

Published on 02/06/2009

By Mutwiri Mutuota

“I want to go to Berlin.” This is the latest catchphrase on any Kenyan athlete’s lips as the countdown to the August 15 to 23 World Championships continues to toll.

And when the best in Kenya Prisons track and field gathered at Nyayo National Stadium last Friday and Saturday, top performers aimed their sights at the 12th edition of the event.

Only that this time, most of the usual suspects in the department’s ranks paved way to emerging blood in the race to secure Kenyan tickets come National Trials.

Age catching up

The likes of women’s marathon Olympic silver medallist, Catherine Ndereba, former three-time World Half Marathon runner-up, Susan Chepkemei, and Boston Marathon champion Salina Kosgei took a back seat at the two-day event, while Olympic finalist (5,000m), Thomas Longosiwa did not even show up.

“Age is catching up with our veterans who have given us excellent service over the years. We had to recruit new athletes to depend on and most of the fresh faces did well,” Gideon Chirchir, Kenya Prisons head coach, told FeverPitch.

And they do not lack prospects though it might be argued that institutional rivals, Armed Forces and Kenya Police, who hold their championships this weekend, have more probables for Berlin.

Reuben Bett, who won his second men 800m Prisons title in 1:47.6 and holds the world eighth fastest time of the year (1:44.79), has a decent chance of qualifying at the distance.

He has to contend with Olympic champion, Wilfred Bungei, Africa champion, David Rudisha, Olympic semi-finalist, Boaz Lalang and Olympic 1,500m silver medallist, Asbel Kiprop who is weighing a stab at 800m among others in the race for the three coveted Kenya tickets.

Vincent Koskei, the 400m hurdler who won his race in 51.5 is another not too far away from the 49.20 A-qualifying standard for Berlin.

Former national 400m champion, Thomas Musembi, who clocked 46.3 is another hope as well as women’s 1,500m champion, Tabitha Wambui, who set a new Prisons record of 4:18.0.

Double champion, Pauline Wangui (5,000m and 10,000m) who was recruited last year displayed enough talent to be considered a serious contender at the Trials.

She beat Ndereba to fourth in 5,000m and Chepkemei to fifth in 10,000m to underline her potential.

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