Taking Kenya volleyball to next level

In June of 2015, the Kenya women’s volleyball team and the coaching staff led by David Lungaho once again did the country proud by winning the African volleyball championships in grand style. They overpowered every team including arch-rivals Cameroon, Algeria and Tunisia, winning every match without losing a set. It was one of the most dominant performances ever by this team and they deserve the support of everyone.


Kenya players posing with the trophy

Kenya has indeed dominated the continent since the late 1980s with a few interruptions from countries like Egypt and Algeria. However when they do participate in global events such as the Olympics, the exact opposite happens and Kenya often exits the tournament without ever having won a set. Why does this happen? It is not because Kenyan volleyballers they lack work ethic nor because they lack talent. It comes down to the fact that the Kenyan system is not producing players with the requisite technical skills needed to compete at a global level.

When team has limited skills, the coach cannot deploy complex attacking moves that can beat the sophisticated defensive systems that the top teams deploy. And when a team has limited defensive skills, the opposing team can often exploit the weaknesses with ease.

Volleyball Skills

The best volleyball playing countries in the world are those that have players who have been honing and sharpening their volleyball skills from as early as age 13, 14 or 15. The basic volleyball skills are serving , passing (Forearm Underhand),Passing (Overhand, Overhead or Setting), Attack (Hitting), Blocking – Attack; Defend, Defensive Skills , sprawling,  Rolling; Sliding.)

The best national systems are those that identify youth who have the talent, ability and interest to perform these skills at a high level. They will then start by teaching them the basics. Once the players master the proper way to execute these skills, they go to the next level where they start practicing more complex moves. The process continues such that by the time they are in their twenties, they can perform the most complicated moves.

When a coach has players who can execute complex moves, it gives him plenty of options and makes it easier for him to design plays that will generate points. It also makes it easier for him to design defensive systems that can stifle the best attack that the opposition has to offer.

Back to Kenya

Clearly the reason Kenya cannot hack it at global level is because our players have not cultivated the kind of skills that their opponents have.

Perhaps the most glaring example of missing technical skills in the Kenyan setup is the jump-serve. Each of the top teams at the global players have 1 , 2 or several players capable of not just performing a jump-serve but also of performing it with power and accuracy.


Kenya still has not produced players capable of performing proper jump-serves

The jump-serve when executed with power, agility, height and precision is an awesome weapon and often results in quick points. A good jumpserver can put the ball exactly where a coach has identified a weakness in the opposing team’s defense thus scoring several easy points. Defending against a good jump-server requires very good defensive skills.

Though this skill has been in use for decades now, no Kenyan player has mastered this skill. Kenyan players still serve the ball in the traditional way and the primary goal is to get the ball in play not to score points. It is like having a football team with no free-kick specialist which is unthinkable in this day.

Aside from the jump-serve, the other basic skills such as setting, passing, digging, sprawling etc are executed at technical levels that are a notch lower than their counterparts in other countries.

What is the solution?

There is barely a youth development scheme in Kenya. There is a junior team (under 21) that is mostly inactive. There is only one talent academy in the entire country (NYTA) which is in stark comparison with other countries that have multiple academies in each town.

There are some schools in Kenya that often produce the best players. These include schools like Malava, Lugulu and Mukumu. But it is not clear whether the coaches in the schools are up to speed on the latest coaching techniques. There is no coordinated national program.

The first order of business is to establish multiple youth programs across the country. One or two is not enough. Coaches should be adequately trained and made to attend regular refresher courses. These coaches should be charged with identifying players with potential.

The correct way to recruit players

In countries like USA, tryouts are held by measuring physical attributes that are useful in volleyball. First and foremost is a players jumping ability (vertical jump, approach jump and block jump) must be at least 9 inches for attackers and blockers. Secondly recruit for height. Players who are approaching six foot and above should be given priority. Raw athleticism is a good recruiting tool. If you attend primary school and secondary school athletics meets, you will find several girls who can run 100 metres in under 13 seconds. This kind of agility and quickness is useful in volleyball. Such girls should be encouraged to tryout. And most importantly, recruit only interested players. If a player shows only lukewarm interest, you might as well leave them alone because they will soon totally lose interest and quit the sport. Only players who are passionate about the sport should be recruited because they are likely to pursue playing playing after they finish secondary school.

Recruiting tall players is important. The teams that usually play against Kenya at the global level typically have several players as tall as 6’5″. This is one area Kenya has always lacked.

Youth Development

Once players with the right attributes are identified, they should be recruited to centres of excellence like NYTA and offered full scholarships. Here they must be exposed to the best and most up to date coaching. A good coach is one who first teaches basic skills until said skills are mastered. Once a player masters the basics, they can move to more complex tasks. A good coach will always push a player to go outside their comfort zone.  The concept of struggling a little to improve or acquire skill is important to the improvement process.  The coach must be able to present an appropriate challenge that will cause some “struggle”, but can be accomplished. For example when working of defense, the coach can attack the ball just a little outside the current range of the player.

Once a player masters a particular skill , they must repeat it multiple times until it becomes ingrained in their motor skills i.e. second nature. Good habits must be enforced by constant repetition. Bad habits must be got rid of with appropriate punishments like push-ups or laps.

Players must then be exposed to several different environments. For example, when working on attacking, instead of tossing perfect sets to the athlete, “mix” in out of system sets, different types of sets, sets from right and left side and both front and back row attacks.  These can take place in controlled single skill drills or multi player drills or scrimmage situations.

Finally, the players must be challenged by making them play stronger opposition. There is no point of making NYTA players play against other schools. They should measure themselves against national league players where they can learn from the best.

It is very important that these skills are taught at a young age. The older a person becomes, the harder it is to learn new skills and it is impossible for those skills to be ingrained into the person’s motor skills or in muscle memory such that they become second nature. Yet in Kenya, most players have never had a qualified coach perhaps until they reach the national league or even perhaps only when they play for the national team.

If a players goes through proper coaching and exposure from form 1 to form 4, you will end up with players with excellent skills. Currently, development of players in Kenya is left to chance. If a player with talent ends up going to a secondary school with no coach or with an unqualified coach, their skills are often wasted. Such is the case in almost all schools in Kenya.

Once a player finishes their secondary school, if they are good enough, they will always be recruited by national league teams like Pipeline, KCB and Prisons. The best grassroots coaches are the ones produce the best players by recruiting players with potential and turning that potential into a technically skilled player. Coaches should be assessed on how successful their program is in producing high calibre players. Those who cannot produce players should be re-trained or re-assigned.

KVF should continue to monitor young players once they are done with secondary school. Those who excel should be invited to play in the national under 20 teams. At present the national youth teams are largely inactive. This is something that should be rectified.

 How can all this be accomplished ?

Of course it takes plenty of finance to make a national youth program successful. One idea that has floated around Kenya for decades now is the idea of a national sports lottery to generate money for sports programs. A similar program is used in countries like the UK for example. In Kenya this idea has bounced around but has never been put in place. Most sports ministers in Kenya’s history are quick to pose for pictures with successful national teams but have very little knowledge about what it takes to have a successful national team. The current sports minister is no different.

There was a comical situation at the 2004 Olympics. Where an official of the sports ministry who had traveled with the delegation (Mrs Rebecca N. ) was so furious at the team for losing 3 sets to nil that she went into the dressing room after the game and gave the players and team officials a serious dressing down. In her mind, they had lost too easily. What she did not realize is that sometimes the technical skills of the opposition are so much higher that they made winning look easy.

The national team now receives a sponsorship courtesy of the National Oil company. Some of this sponsorship money should be channeled towards propping up centres of excellence. The sport should also be promoted all over the country. As things stand now, the only places where the game is taken seriously is parts of the former western province and parts of Rift Valley. Yet an area like Nairobi county is teeming with talent waiting to be tapped.

Only when Kenya puts in place the proper development structures will the country be able to compete at a global level. Until then, fans will have to be content with winning in Africa and occasionally losing to Egypt or Algeria but never winning a single set when they play against world class competition.

Promote volleyball at grassroots level

The more popular a sport is i any country, the more likely it will excel at that sport because the most athletic players will gravitate towards that sport. One way to popularize a sport is to start inter-county or inter-region competitions. It is much easier for fans to identify with community teams than with corporation based teams like KCB. A national tournament like the former Sakata Ball tournament would be very popular. Kenyans like volleyball. A well thought out league structure will attract crowds. The country already has a good platform to start building the popularity of the sport.

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Candidat na biso Mobutu by Franco (Lyrics and Translation)

mobutu

This is one of the biggest propaganda songs ever composed by anyone. It was composed by Franco in 1984 for the Zairean Presidential elections. Mobutu was the only candidate and the election election took the format of a “yes” or “no” vote for Mobutu’s candidacy. According to official results, 99% voted Yes for Mobutu.

Though Mobutu was the only candidate, he aggressively campaigned all over the country taking his message to the furthest reaches of the country. And this song was a key pillar of his propaganda machine.

Another notable aspect of this song is its extraordinary length. (19 minutes). This is long even for Franco. When the album was released, the song was repeated on both side A and Side B of the record. It was to be distributed free of charge to Zaireans. The album cover did not contain Franco’s name but the song was credited to him.

Lyrics and Translation





















 

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Kenya women’s volleyball caps three decades of excellence

For a record 9th time, the Kenya women’s volleyball team won the African Volleyball championships and in the process earned a place in the FIVB world cup to be held in Japan in November.

And Kenya did it in style. Not only did they win every match, but they also won every set. During the group matches, Kenya ploughed through Mauritius, Botswana and Algeria with identical scores of 3-0. In the semi-finals, Kenya recorded an impressive 3-0 win over Cameroon. This is the same Cameroon team that had beaten Kenya in the semi-finals of 2011 All Africa games and forced Kenya to settle for bronze.

In the finals, they beat Algeria 3-0. The fact that Kenya beat Algeria twice without losing a set is impressive Algeria have won the All Africa games gold medal twice in a row (2007 and 2011) and have beaten Kenya on several occasions over the past few years.

“I think that Kenya is too much for us now, I was missing two dependable players but still we cannot dislodge them for at least the next one year,” Algeria’s Italian coach François Salvagni said to the Daily Nation.

Also impressive is the fact Kenya won the most individual awards: Everylne Makuto was voted the tournament’s most valuable player (MVP), Janet Wanja (best setter), Ruth Jepngetich (best blocker), and Elizabeth Wanyama (best libero).

“We fought hard for all this, God is great,” Makuto said.

Kenya have now been African champions an incredible 9 times. The closest challengers are Egypt and Tunisia who have won 3 times each. To put it plainly, at continental level, the Kenya women’s volleyball team are Kenya’s best performing team whether at club or national level.

Kenya were the defending champions having won in 2011 and 2013. They will now be gunning to regain the All Africa games gold medal which they last won in 1999. Algeria have won the last two editions.

Three Decades of Excellence.

African continental competitions such as the All African games have featured volleyball since the 1960s. Kenya had been a non-factor in continental volleyball. That is until 1987. Before a partisan Kenyan crowd at Kasarani, Kenya shocked everyone by unexpectedly reaching the finals. And in the finals, Kenya put on a valiant effort against Egypt but lost 1-3. Each set was closely contested, often going to tie breakers.

That Kenya squad with players like Margaret Indakhala, Ann Wekhomba, Doris Wefwafwa, Lucy Fataki Kamweru, Nereah Ouma, Njeri Onyango, Emily Kusimba and Truphosa Lai are considered the pioneers of Kenya women’s volleyball. Though Kenya lost in the final, most observers saw a bright future for Kenya. They were vindicated when Kenya avenged their loss by beating Egypt in Cairo in 1991 to win the 5th All Africa games final. It was a momentous year for Kenya as they won both the African championships and the All Africa games gold medal.

The indefatigable Margaret Indakhala amazingly still players volleyball actively. In 2011, she won a bronze medal at the All Africa games beach volleyball contest when she paired with Dorcas Ndasaba who is also a veteran of the Kenya national team.

In the years between 1991 and 2003, Egypt was Kenya’s primary rival both at national level and at club level. Egypt were African champions in 1976, 1989 and 2003. But whereas Egypt has fallen by the wayside, Kenya has remained consistent.

The decade of the 1990s was the most successful period for Kenya. During this period, they won all the All Africa games contests (1991, 1995 and 1999). They also won the African championships 4 times in a row (1991, 1993, 1995 and 1997). This was the period of players like Violet Baraza, Roselidah Obunaga, Mercy Wesutila, Gladys Nasikanda, Mary Ouko, Mildred Odwako and Abigail Tarus among others. Violet Baraza put on impressive performances that saw her become the first Kenyan woman to play professional volleyball in Europe. She played in Greece and Romania.

At the start of the new millenium, Kenya started to face strong challenges from the North Africa teams. Initially it was Egypt who wrested the African title from Kenya in 2003. Then Algeria who won in 2009. However Kenya has won 5 out of 8 African titles since the turn of the century.

During this period, players like Jane Wacu and Braxcides Agala have produced superb performances that have seen them rewarded with professional contracts in Europe. Both play for French second tier side Chamalieres.

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Kenyan Ice Hockey ace Johnny Oduya is two time NHL champion

The Chicago Black hawks won the 2015 NHL championship also known as the Stanley cup. They did so by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 7 game series. The NHL is the most competitive Ice Hockey league in the world. In the starting line-up was Johnny Oduya, a defensive stalwart of Kenyan descent.

Oduya played more minutes than most other players and often played while injured. He is known as a tireless work horse. He played over 26 minutes per game during the 2015 playoffs which is among the highest. His positional instincts and subtle skill allow him to function consistently for as many minutes as are required of him.

Oduya has played three seasons with the Chicago Black Hawks. During his three full seasons in a Blackhawks uniform, Oduya has been part of two Stanley Cup-winning squads and another that fell just short of making it three consecutive trips to the Final. He was champion in 2013 as well.  He is an excellent shot blocker. He is a methodical penalty killer. Salarwise, Oduya made $2.825 million this past season

Background.

Johnny Oduya was born on October 1, 1981 to a Swedish mother and a Kenyan father. His father George Oduya was a journalist. His elder brother Frederik Oduya was also a professional ice hockey player.

He is a long serving member of the Swedish national team, steering them to 3rd place on the 2009 world championships and a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

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Photos: Kenya wins 2015 Africa volleyball championship


Captain Braxcides Agala receives the trophy from Sports Minister Hassan Wario and CAVB Chairman Dr. Amr Elwani




Award winners for the 2015 Africa womens volleyball championships : Everylne Makuto(MVP), Senegal’s Fatou Diock (best attacker), Elizabeth Wanyama (best libero), Ruth Jepngetich (best blocker), Janet Wanja (best setter), Algeria’s Basokou Abrouche (best receiver) />




Kenya pose with the trophy and individual awards




Kenya beat Cameroon 3 sets to 0, thus earning a measure of revenge. Cameroon beat Kenya in the semis of the 2011 All Africa games




Kenya players congratulate each other after winning




Victorious team Kenya after the final game




Kenya players celebrate after one of the games




Large Crowds turned up to spur Kenya on in each game




Kenya wave to the crowd after winning




Kenya Players celebrate




Team Kenya pose for a group prior to the start of the tournament




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Rudisha impressive in first Diamond League win of 2015

diamond-league-logo

David Rudisha won the New York Diamond League meet with an impressive time of 1:43.58. When Rudisha last ran in Ostrava two weeks ago, he pulled up with a hamstring injury, sparking fears that he would be facing another long term injury. But On Saturday he proved that not only has he put the injury behind him but he is on the way back to his best.

Normally Rudisha running 1:43 would not be anything to get excited about considering that this is a person who used to easily run in the 1:42 regions and occassionally 1:41 and 1:40. But given his injury plagued form of the past two years, this time is worth applauding. Rudisha has worked diligently to overcome injuries and get back to his form.

It is worth noting that Rudisha’s time was only 0.02 seconds off Mohamed Aman’s world leading time and was accomplished in windy conditions. It is a warning from Rudisha to his current rivals that the King is intent on regaining his crown.

The manner of Rudisha’s win was impressive. Like he did during his imperious years, Rudisha towed the field. After the pacemaker dropped out, Rudisha took over the lead and pulled the rest of the field leading by over two meters. He finished well ahead of the rest of the field and looked like he still had a lot of petrol left in the tank. He would have run a low 1:43 had he tried.

Race Video

Results

Details 1 David Lekuta Rudisha KENKEN 1:43.58 4
Details 2 Boris Berian USAUSA 1:43.84 2
Details 3 Pierre-Ambroise Bosse FRAFRA 1:43.88 1
Details 4 Matthew Centrowitz USAUSA 1:44.62
Details 5 Leonel Manzano USAUSA 1:45.24
Details 6 Robby Andrews USAUSA 1:45.98
Details 7 Mark English IRLIRL 1:46.12
Details 8 Michael Rutt USAUSA 1:46.83
Details 9 Andrew Wheating USAUSA 1:47.75
Details Duane Solomon USAUSA DNF

 

 

Laser Like Focus

It is well noted that Rudisha has been working extremely hard to rehab his injured knee and regain strength which was lost due to disuse of the muscle tissue. However an even more important aspect of Rudisha’s return is that he is running sparingly and pacing himself unlike in the past. He correctly turned down an opportunity to run in the world relay championships and has run in very few races at home.

Big Test Coming up

While Rudisha’s win in New York was impressive, he has yet to compete against his real challengers, namely Mohamed Aman of Ethiopia and Nijel Amos of Botswana who was the top performer in 2014. These are the two who are most likely to deny Rudisha a gold medal at the world championships in Beijing. Indeed last season, Rudisha lost to Nijel Amos.

Kenya fans  will be hoping that Rudisha can recapture the form that saw him dominate this event in the past. He is the only medal prospect from Kenya this season. The 800m has been an event that Kenya has thoroughly dominated in the past. In past seasons, Kenya always had numerous 800m prospects. This season, only Rudisha is a factor.

 Other Races

2007 world champion Janeth Jepkosgei is still going strong at age 32. She finished second in the women’s 800m with a time of 1:59.37  . The winner of the race was home favourite Ajee Wilson who will be Eunice Sum’s primary challenger in Beijing.

 


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Kiprop and Birech shine in Oslo

Athletics - IAAF World Athletics Championships - Osaka 2007 - Nagai Stadium

Many Kenya athletics fans have been concerned about the questionable form of Asbel Kiprop 2015. Kiprop has dominated the mile and 1500m since 2008. But in 2015 his form has been below par. Any fears about his purported poor form were assuaged on Friday June 12 at the Bislett games in Oslo. Kiprop won the dream mile sprinting home in 3:51.45 ahead of the fellow Kenyan who finished last year as world leader, Silas Kiplagat and well ahead of arch rival Ayanleh Suleiman of Djibouti.

“It was my fourth time here and my fourth win, which is excellent for me.

“I knew Souleiman asked for a very fast pace, but for the rest it was too fast and going into the last lap we were nearly all together.

“At that time I was thinking there is a good chance I can win again at Bislett.” said Kiprop.

 

1 Asbel Kiprop KENKEN 3:51.45 4
Details 2 Silas Kiplagat KENKEN 3:51.72 2
Details 3 Pieter-Jan Hannes BELBEL 3:51.84 1
Details 4 Ayanleh Souleiman DJIDJI 3:52.69
Details 5 Ronald Kwemoi KENKEN 3:53.07
Details 6 Jakub Holuša CZECZE 3:53.46
Details 7 Henrik Ingebrigtsen NORNOR 3:54.44
Details 8 Charles Philibert-Thiboutot CANCAN 3:54.52
Details 9 Ryan Gregson AUSAUS 3:54.88
Details 10 Johan Cronje RSARSA 3:58.80

Birech Dominates steeplechase

Last week Jairus Birech lost a close battle with 5 time champion Ezekiel Kemboi at Prefontaine. But at the Bislett games , Birech 22-was in dominat form again. Jairus Birech, who won six of the 7 Diamond Leages races last year, won going away in 8:05.63. This time Kemboi was not a factor as Birech used a fast early pace to shake off Kemboi.

2013 World Champion silver medallist Conseslus Kipruto, who had started off his year with third place showings in Shanghai and Eugene, moved up a spot to second in 8:11.92. The only other man under 8:15 was Kenya’s Paul Kipsiele Koech (8:12.20, for 3rd).

Birech set a fast pace hot so he could drop Kemboi before the bell as Kemboi has a lethal kick. Birech was on the heels of the rabbit early on. By the 2km mark he had gapped the field and Kemboi was alread in 4th some 3-4 seconds back. After that, Kemboi totally packed it in as he ended up 10th in 8:30.07.

1 Jairus Kipchoge Birech KENKEN 8:05.63 4
Details 2 Conseslus Kipruto KENKEN 8:11.92 2
Details 3 Paul Kipsiele Koech KENKEN 8:12.20 1
Details 4 Hillary Kipsang Yego KENKEN 8:18.01
Details 5 Donald Cabral USAUSA 8:19.07
Details 6 Brahim Taleb MARMAR 8:21.33
Details 7 Krystian Zalewski POLPOL 8:22.44
Details 8 Jonathan Muia Ndiku KENKEN 8:25.80
Details 9 Ángel Mullera ESPESP 8:27.95
Details 10 Ezekiel Kemboi KENKEN 8:30.07
Details 11 Barnabas Kipyego KENKEN 8:30.70
Details 12 Sisay Korme ETHETH 8:32.54
Details 13 Bjørnar Ustad Kristensen NORNOR 8:49.53

 

Other races

Faith Kipyegon finished second in the women’s 1500m finishing in 4:00.94  behind Laura Muir. Carvin Nkanata finished 5th in the 200m. He has yet to recapture the scintillating form he exhibited to start the season. –

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With a huge heave, Yego writes himself into history books

yego-brit-15

On Saturday June 6 at the Sainsbury’s Birmingham Grand Prix, Kenyan javelin thrower Julius Yego heaved his way into the history books. Not only did he win this Diamond league event, but he also set a new African record and a new Diamond League record at 91.39m.

The mark is not just the best mark of the 2015 season, but is also the best mark recorded since 2006 and good enough for the 9th best mark in the history of the Javelin.

Controversy

But it was not without controversy. World champion Vitezslav Vesely of the Czech republic was in the lead when Yego came down the runway. He sent his javelin high into the air and it landed well beyond Vesely’s mark but was initially ruled to have fallen outside the sector.

It was up for debate, though, as the sector lines hadn’t been extended beyond 87 metres. The throw was measured anyway – 91.39m for the record – but after close examination the judges said it was still outside the sector.

Twenty minutes after the meeting ended, with the stands now completely empty, the officials reversed their decision and awarded Yego the victory with his 91.39m throw.

Memorable season

Yego has been going from strength to strength this season. On May 27 he set a new Kenya record in the process of winning the Ostrava grand prix. It was his first ever Diamond League win. A week later he set a new Kenya record in finishing second at the Golden Gala Diamond League meet in Rome.

 


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Farceur by Franco (Translation and Lyrics)

farceur

This classic song was composed and released by Franco in 1982. It features Franco on lead vocals with a chorus line that includes among others, Ntesa Dalienst

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First diamond league win for Hyvin Kiyeng as Yego lowers record again

diamond-league-logo

22 year old Hyvin Kiyeng registered her first ever diamond league win when she won the 3000m steeplechase at the Golden Gala Diamond league on Wednesday June 3 2015 in Rome.  Finishing in second place was new sensation Virginia Nyambura who until recently was only a pacemaker. The duo finished ahead of Ethiopian Hiwot Ayalew.

Kiyeng pulled up on Nyambura’s shoulder on the backstretch and the two were stride-for-stride until the final water jump. At that point, Nyambura pulled ahead and it looked like she was going to pull away for the win, but Kiyeng fought to narrow the gap and began to accelerate into the final barrier. She carried her burst of speed over the barrier and though Nyambura went with her to begin with, she couldn’t maintain it as Kiyeng pulled away over the final 30 meters.

It was an impressive win over two Ethiopians, Ayalew and Sofia Assefa who dominated this event last year and ran the firstest and second fastest times of 2014 respectively. Kiyeng now holds this years world leading time.

Race Video

Yego sets new Kenya record

Julius Yego who only last week won his first ever Diamond league event and in the process set a new record, lowered the Kenya Javelin record again.

Julius Yego launched his spear out to Kenyan record of 87.71m in round four, adding 85cm to his own mark set a week ago in Ostrava. Yego’s mark is the third best in 2015 and is the 32nd best of all time.

 


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