World 10,000m bronze medalist Rhonex Kipruto has given Kenya fresh hope to end their jinx and win the race at the Olympic Games.
The 20-year-old has already beaten the 5km road world record, clocking 13 minutes and 18 seconds, and went on to do the same in the 10km race, before Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda obliterated the record in 26:38 in Valencia, Spain.
However, Barnaba Korir, the athlete’s agent and vice-chairman of Athletics Kenya (AK), believes the youngster has similar characteristics to those of Eliud Kipchoge and Geoffrey Kamworor and has the potential to rule the roost in his specialty, especially going forward to the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“There have been many other athletes before, but I really hope that Kipruto will fit in the equation that will strive to bring back Kenya’s glory in 10,000m at the Olympics,” Korir said.
Kenya last won gold in the 10,000m race in 1968 through Naftali Temu in Mexico City. But for now, because of the coronavirus, Kipruto, who is also the world Under-20 champion, is busy planting trees in the village of Kimamet near Eldoret.
Kipruto, together with Kamworor, is expected to lead Kenya’s charge in Tokyo, but with Britain’s Mo Farah and Cheptegei both training their eyes on the title, it can only promise to blossom to a fully fledged war in an event that is rarely contested.
There is also Japan-based Rodgers Kwemoi, fourth at the World Championships in Doha last year, Bernard Barsoton and Tokyo Marathon silver medalist Bedan Karoki.
Korir said with athletes not keen to compete in the 10,000m, it will require more incentives to be able to get faster times. More runners are opting to go for the road races due to lack of opportunities, especially on the Grand Prix front.
Kwemoi, who has returned to Kenya and is under lockdown in Eldoret, says the season promises to be tough with no competitions. “We are all focused on winning a slot in the Kenya team to the Olympics,” said Kwemoi.
“But we have no competition and training is limited. There are restrictions, but we will remain focused to see that we do well in 2021.”
Kwemoi, the 2016 world Under-20 champion in 10,000m, has been working and training simultaneously in Japan where he is signed up by the Asian Corporate team but was unable to return due to the virus.
Kwemoi, Kamworor and Kipruto hold Kenyan hopes to break the jinx in the 10,000m race at the Tokyo Games in 2021.