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Lack of focus costs Kenya medals

19 August 2013, 19:30

Nairobi - Lack of coordination and bad blood in the team cost Kenya a clean sweep in the men's 3,000m steeplechase event at the Moscow worlds, local media reported Monday.

Moses Kiptanui, a three-time world champion in the water and barrier event, said his understudy and reigning world champion Ezekiel Kemboi and apprentice Conseslus Kipruto were at 'war' and not working for the same team, a fact that contributed in allowing Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi to sneak in and break a Kenyan clean sweep.

"It was clear from July that Kemboi and Kipruto were not the best friends. You could see as the race started that all was not well and they were not running as a team," Kiptanui said.

"The first sign was when Kemboi was left behind. He (Kemboi) did not jet out with the rest of the team to Moscow on Aug. 6 for the championship. What happened and how come the team officials were not informed about it in advance," he added.

Kipruto, the only Kenyan to beat Kemboi during the Diamond League meetings this season, has curved his niche since he won gold at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona last year.

He cemented his place as legend-in-making by beating Kemboi - a two time Olympic champion - during the Shanghai Diamond League and said the writing was on the wall for the ageing Kemboi (31).

However, nobody took his sentiments serious and no effort was done to help reconcile the two. The consequence saw Kemboi win his third straight world championship in Moscow in eight minutes, 6.01 seconds.

Kipruto took silver in 8:06.37 and Mekhissi of France, a two time Olympic silver medallist, took bronze in 8:07.86.

Kenya has won every world and Olympic title since 2005 when Kenya-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen took gold.

"It was evident during the race that the Kenyans were their worst enemies. It was all there for one to see. The signs and body language revealed it. There was no team work.

There was pointing of fingers especially between Kemboi and Kipruto as they finished the race to indicate who is the king of steeplechase. That was bad," he said.

Kiptanui, who is now the trainer of Kemboi, said all four Kenyans in Moscow were capable for claiming a 1-2-3-4 sweep if there was goodwill and tolerance in the team. But now he blames the team management for failing to spot and contain the rivalry.

Instead Kenya paid the prize with Paul Kipsiele Koech and Olympic Bronze medallist Abel Mutai finishing fourth and sixth respectively.

Kemboi, has won three World championships in Berlin (2009), Daegu (2011) and Moscow. But challenger Kipruto is just getting off his blocks and might be the heir apparent to the throne if Kemboi retires.

- Xinhua

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