The Athletics Kenya decision to stage their Olympic 10,000 meter selection in Eugene, Oregon at this June’s Prefontaine Classic has come in for some harsh criticism back home. Perhaps to tamp down some of that criticism and ameliorate disappointed fans, Athletics Kenya chairman Isaiah Kiplagat has made a Solomon-esque decision. Today, he informed the agents who represent the 10,000-meter Olympic “A” standard qualified Kenyan men that they “must participate in the mini trials to be held in Nairobi on 17 April 2012 without exception.”
This message arrived out of the blue, leading to speculation that the addition of a “mini trials” comes in response to the backlash from the Kenya media and the National Olympic Committee. The Kenyan Ministry of Sport had also made condemning comments about the AK’s handling of the Olympic selection process.
Regardless, it’s hard to argue with the logic of staging the 10,000m trials in Eugene. And it wouldn’t be the first time a Kenyan Trials selection was held outside the country, either as the 1992 Kenyan Olympic marathon team was selected out of the Boston Marathon.
But for the 10,000 meters, the atmosphere in Eugene at Hayward Field will be electric. What’s more, the race will be conducted at sea-level, thereby mirroring the conditions the team will find in London at the Games. As such, the need to experience and practice the kind of final lap sprint – that Kenyans are not well known for – and which could mean the difference between a medal and disappointment, is much more likely to come to pass in Eugene than at altitude in Nairobi.
Also, with a pre-selection race and a following Trials competition, the odds are greater that an experienced team will emerge, rather than include a one-trick pony who may rise in a single selection race at altitude, but then bomb out in London. In any case, the intrigue continues, which will only build more attention for both races.