Kenyan sprinters rise in 2015

The 2015 will go down as a memorable season for Kenyan sprinters. Whereas Kenya is known for producing more world class distance runners than any other nation, it has generally faired poorly in the shortest distances, especially since the early 1990s when the Kenyan athletics governing body (AK) really started to neglect the sprinters.

Yet in the last few years, AK has started to treat sprinters better, resulting in gradual improvements that culminated in a memorable 2015 season.

Bett and Mucheru shock the world in the 400m hurdles.

Firstly Nicholas Bett became the first Kenyan to win a sprinting medal at the world championships when he won the gold medal in the 400m hurdles. It was a run that shocked the world. Not only did Bett overcome the odds to win, he won out of lane 9, the outermost lane which is the most difficult to win from. By running a time of 47.79, he ran the fastest time in the world for the year 2015. It was also a new Kenyan record, breaking the old one set by Eric Keter 22 years earlier when Bett was barely a year old.

But it was not just Bett who shone. Compatriot Boniface Mucheru Tumuti also reached the finals of the 400m hurdles at the world championships and finished a creditable 5th. The fact that two Kenyans made a sprint final was in itself very impressive.


Bett receives congratulations from Mucheru

This column has stated many times that Kenyans can do well in the 400m hurdles. This event is very similar to the 800m in terms of cardiovascular demands. And Kenyans have dominated the 800m for a long time. What has been lacking is the technical approach that is needed for hurdling.

4 X 400m relay team wins All African gold

Kenya was able to retain the 4 X 400m relay title at the All Africa games in dramatic fashion. Botswana were the hot favourites. Kenya were neck and neck with the Botswana coming into the final leg. No one gave Kenya a chance since Botswana’s anchor was Isaac Makwala who had easily won the 400m gold with s superb time of 44.35, more than half a second ahead of Kenya’s Boniface Mweresa. Botswana also had the 400m bronze medalist Onkabetse Nkobolo plus 800m winner Nijel Amos

However it was Mweresa who prevailed, doggedly holding off Makwala as the latter breathed down his neck. In the last 50m, Mweresa shifted to fifth gear and showed Makwala a clean pair of heels, leaving the tiring Makwala stunned. Mweresa ran an incredible 43.8 second split in the anchor leg. That is even faster than the legendary Samson Kitur who still holds the Kenya 400m records. And is as fast as top 400m like Kirani James.

Kenya’s splits were as follows: Raymond Kibet  (45.5) , Alex Sampao (45.6)  Kiprono Koskei (45.4) Boniface Mweresa (43.8).

What is also amazing is that Kenya was running without Nicholas Bett and Boniface Mucheru. Had they run, Kenya might have broken the national record.

Kenya placed three runners in the 400m finals at the All Africa games with Mweresa winning the silver medal while Sampao and Kibet finished 6th and 8th respectively.

The Kenyan women’s 4 X 400m were not to be left behind either. They won the bronze medal in 3:35.91 which however is still 7 seconds off the Kenya record which was set in 1987. The Kenyan quartet consisted of Hellen Syombua, Annet Mwanzi, Winnie Chebet and Maureen Nyatichi

Eunice Kadogo bags silver in the 100m

Eunice Kadogo was one of the biggest revelations of 2015. She surprised everyone perhaps even herself when she won the silver medal in the 100m at the All Africa games. She was a relatively unknown figure before she arrived in Brazzaville for the games. But she fired a warning shot when she first lowered the Kenyan record with a time of 11.58 in the semi-finals. In the finals she lowered it even further to 11.47. Prior to Kadogo, the record was set by Joyce Odhiambo who set the Kenyan mark at 11.62 in 1987.

New Records Galore

The 2015 season saw a number of Kenyan records fall. Mike Mokamba Nyangau set a 100m record with a time of 10.23. He is the son of Elkanah Nyangau who represented Kenya in the late 1980s over the 400m. Nyangau also earned a ticket to run at the world championships in the 200m.

Carvin Nkanata set a new Kenya record in the 200m with a superb time of 20.14. It was the 23rd fastest time in the world in 2015, marking the first time a Kenyan appeared in the IAAF top lists in the short sprints.

 


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