Kenya’s coach Julius Kirwa is optimistic that the country’s legion of star athletes who are in Monaco for the Diamond League will offer a glimpse of their preparedness before they cross over to Japan for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
At least eight of Team Kenya athletes will be in Monaco to gauge themselves as the time ticks away towards the opening ceremony of the biggest sporting competition since COVID-19 struck. Kenyan athletes heading to Tokyo, will however, skip the Gateshead (London) Diamond League meeting on July 13.
Training in a bubble in Nairobi, the athletes have unique challenges which they need to overcome and restore their confidence, including lack of competition. “There are limited races to compete in and we have pushed them in training, but individually, they have their targets and plans that they must push to attain in Monaco to be sure they are on course for a podium finish at the Olympics,” Julius Kirwa, head coach, said on Friday in Nairobi.
World steeplechase champion Beatrice Chepkoech, Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Kipyegon and world 1,500m champion Timothy Cheruiyot will be the athletes to beat in their respective disciplines. There will also be Ferguson Rotich (800m), Hyvin Kiyeng (3,000m steeplechase) and Benjamin Kigen (3,000m steeplechase).
Chepkoech will revisit the scene of her world record in 2018 in need of some of that inspiration as Kiyeng has dominated their meetings so far this season. “I need to try out my speed. I always compete with a target to win and it will be good to see how I will fare on against some strong opposition. I love running and always will feel grateful that I was given this talent, which I am proud of,” said Chepkoech
The Kenyan duo, however, will not have the race to themselves with 2017 World champion Emma Coburn of the United States, German Gesa Krause and Bahrain’s Winifred Yavi also on the start list.
Kenyan athletes expect fireworks on the way as Kipyegon renews her rivalry with world champion Sifan Hassan, while Cheruiyot takes on European champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen and the rising Australian Stewart McSweyn.
In recent years, Monaco has gained a justified reputation for staging outstanding middle-distance events, with world records set in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase (Chepkoech 2018) women’s mile (Hassan 2019) and men’s 5,000m (Joshua Cheptegei 2020) in successive years and a host of other world-leading times.