Just like wine gets better with age, 66-year-old Stephen Kamande is not showing any signs of calling it a day in his long athletics career and now eyes a gold medal after he was included in the team for the 23rd edition of the World Masters (Veterans) Athletics Championships slated for September 6-16 in Malaga, Spain.
Kamande, who won a silver medal in his debut at the Championships two years ago, is confident of improving on his feat this year, arguing that he is in a better form than he was when stunned by his opponents to finish second at the 22nd edition of the Championships held in Perth, Australia, in 2016.
“I have kept myself very healthy and I train regularly. So I feel fit enough to challenge the best in my race at the Championships in Europe and bring home gold this time. My competitors will be in for a rude shock if they underrate me because I’m strong and running is my passion,” said Kamande.
Meanwhile, multiple Olympic and World Champion Ezekiel Kemboi has gone missing, from Kenya Masters Athletics squad just days before the team’s departure.
Kemboi had been earmarked to captain the team but his absence has forced the team management to settle on 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games 400m gold medallist Mark Mutai instead.
The team’s manager Rose Tata Muya appealed to Kemboi to honour the championships as he had been entered for two competitions and was a probable medal winner.
“Kemboi is a man of means and he possess a Schengen visa, so I’m sure he can come by himself if we leave without him. We have tried to reach him without success and even made travel arrangements,” said the former national women 400m record holder.
The team comprising 29 athletes and five officials will depart in two batches beginning on Tuesday with 70-year-old Stephen Oyaro as the senior most member of the team to run the men 5,000m race and half-marathon.
Elizabeth Olaba is the oldest woman in the team at 64 years and will represent the country in three disciplines. The renown track and field judge will hunt for medals in Shot Put, Discus and Hammer throws.
Ministry of Sports and Culture, cautious of travel hitches that befell senior athletics team in Nigeria one month ago, has made arrangements with the embassy in Spain to aid the team’s connection to Malaga from Madrid if the organisers fail to make appropriate arrangements.
Cabinet Administrative Secretary for Sports Hasan Noor, who handed the national flag to the team yesterday, said Kenyan sports personalities are the biggest ambassadors for the country and will be taken care of well. Noor presented the team with a Kenyan flag at the ministry’s offices and urged them to go forth and yield gold.
“Every gold is equal and we will strive to motivate all athletes equally. Personally, I think a Masters gold is heavier as it is won by veterans who represented the country all the way from youth, junior and senior levels. So to do it in old age is even remarkable,” Noor said when asked by team captain Mutai to consider the veterans in the government reward list for high achievers.