Kenyan athletes have a date with destiny and when they seek to improve performance in the 2016 Paralympic Games, which get under way in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, today.
During the 2012 London Olympics Kenya failed to live up to expectations by bagging six medals – two gold, two silver and two bronze medals for the country to wind up the campaign in the 40th position globally.
The performance was a pale shadow of the 2008 Games in Beijing where Kenya clinched five gold, three silver and one bronze medals. In London, Samuel Kimani won gold in men’s 1,500m T11 after clocking 3.58.37 with Abraham Tarbei also winning gold in men’s 1,500 m T46 at 3.50.15.
Daniel Korir earned gold in both 1,500m and 800m while bronze medallists were Henry Kirwa and Tarbei. However, this time round, Kenya Paralympics Committee (KPC) President Agnes Oluoch expressed confidence of Kenyans staging a paradigm shift especially given the ample preparation of the team ahead of the summer games.
“The team is steadfast to produce results and do the country proud just like our able-bodied counterparts who clinched 13 medals. Now is our chance to reciprocate the government support by beating the rest of the world,” said Oluoch shortly before the team departed for the Games.
Kenyan athletes are expected to draw great inspiration from London 2012 1500m gold medalist Samuel Muchai who will also double up in the 5,000m T11.
Others include Henry Kirwa, Wilson Bii, Erick Sang and Nancy Chelagat who will also double up in the 5,000m and 1,500m T11 as well as sprinter Henry Sugi who will participate in the 100 and 200m T12, Wilson Bii, Eric Sang’ and Nancy Chelagat who will also double up in the 1,500 m and 1,500 m T11 as well as sprinter Henry Sugi who will feature in 100 and 200 m T 12.
Besides the seven track athletes, Kenya will for the first time send a para-rower to the games in Itaken Timoi who was a recipient of a wild card from the International Paralympics Committee (IPC).
Other beneficiaries of wild cards are para-lifter Gabriel Magu and 1,500m T12 athlete Nelly Nasimiyu both of who are both perceive as red hot medal prospects.
Kenya was initially set to send a squad of 28 athletes who had all attained the ‘A’ qualifying standards but the list was slashed down to 19 by the IPC.
Kenya made its Paralympic Games debut in 1972 but skipped the 1976 championships before returning in 1980 and has competed in every edition since then.