Kenya target 12 golds on London track

Kenyan athletics coach Julius Kirwa is confident his team will fare well at the Games.

Curved athletics track. Picture: sxc.hu.

LONDON - The Kenyan athletics team at the London Olympics is the best ever and can win 12 golds and 36 medals in all over the next two weeks, coach Julius Kirwa said on Wednesday.

The East African nation enjoyed their best showing at an Olympics four years ago in Beijing with all of their 16 medals coming on the track, but only six of them were gold.

The last nation to win 12 or more golds in the track and field competition at an Olympics was the United States, who won 13 on home soil at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

"We are ready for this Olympics and we are going for a record medal haul. I have the best team ever in Kenya's Olympics history," Kirwa told Reuters.

"That is what we are looking at. At least 12 gold medals, including the elusive 10,000m men's title. As for the overall medal tally, you can multiply that by three," Kirwa boasted as his charges took light training inside a leisure park in East London.

Kenya have not won the men's 10,000m since the Mexico Olympics in 1968 and world bronze medallist Moses Masai and world leader Wilson Kiprop are their best hopes of upsetting Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele's bid for a third straight gold.

Kirwa was no less confident that his team captain, world 800m champion David Rudisha, would better his own world record at the Games.

There are strong Kenyan gold medal hopes in most of the other middle and long distance events, not least Vivian Cheruiyot who will be bidding to match the 5,000-10,000m double she achieved at last year's world championships.

The coach said training back in Kenya had been better preparation for the Games than had they succumbed to demands by officials to go to Bristol for a pre-Olympic camp.

"Even right now, we have some of our athletes training in Kenya. They will come after a week when they are fully fit for the Games," he said.

Six male athletes, three marathon runners training at altitude and three 5,000m runners preparing in Nairobi, remain in Kenya.

The athletics programme starts on Friday at the Olympic Stadium and ends on August 12 with the men's marathon, in which Kenya's London marathon champion William Kipsang is one of the favourites for gold.