Kenyan duo of athletes; Albert Kemboi and Sylvester Kipchirch are eyeing for a slot on the athletics team that will represent Rwanda in the forthcoming Olympic Games scheduled for August in Beijing, China Times Sport can reveal.
The pair who returned back to Kenya yesterday, have been in the country since Sunday for talks with the national athletics federation for a possible deal which can see them represent Rwanda in various regional and international championships.
The pair features in both 800m and 1500m respectively.
The athletics federation vice president Louis Rurangirwa said yesterday that they are set to decide as a federation on whether to take on the athletes.
“There is no positive response I can give in the mean time without first talking to committee members,” Rurangirwa said.
Rurangirwa went on to reveal that the athletes were scouted by the National Olympics Committee president Ignace Beraho who later summoned them to come to Rwanda.
“They are currently in talks with both RNOC and the athletics body for a possible deal which will include naturalizing them as Rwandan citizens,” this source said.
However efforts to contact the Rwanda National Olympics committee president where futile as he couldn’t pick up his phone.
If granted Rwandan nationality, the pair is expected to combine with Rwanda’s long distance star Dieudonne Disi who has already qualified to take part in the Olympic Games and Sylvain Rukundo who is yet to beat the minimum qualifying standards for the Games.
Rwanda will be represented by five disciplines at this year’s Olympic Games. They include; Athletics, boxing, Swimming, cycling and Paralympics. But swimming and cycling are awaiting wildcard entry.
There is enormous concern in athletics circles in Kenya that its pre-eminent position in long distance running is under threat because of the recent defections that have occurred in the recent past.
It is not because other countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda and Eritrea are catching up, but because Kenyan runners are deserting the athletics power house country for riches abroad mainly for the Persian Petrodollars. And for that the government of Kenya recently ordered an enquiry to find out how to stop Kenya’s track stars from defecting.
This comes at a time the after several top Kenyan athletes defecting to compete for for other countries
Two-time Olympic medalist Bernard Lagat renounced his Kenyan citizenship and opted to run for United Sates of America.
Lagat, who won silver in Athens last August and bronze in Sydney in 2000, has lived in the United States since 1996.
In recent years, a number of successful Kenyan athletes have gone to compete for oil-rich Gulf States in return for lucrative packages.
Other Kenyans who have been lured away include; Stephen Cherono, Kenyan gold medalist in the 3,000m steeplechase at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, won gold at the 2005 World Championships as a citizen of Qatar, named Saif Saeed Shaheen.
He had defected for a monthly stipend of $1,000 a month for life.
Shortly afterwards Albert Chepkurui, the 5,000m runner joined him in Qatar, changing his name to Abdullah Ahmed Hassan.
The pair joins Wilson Kipketer (Denmark), Wilson Kirwa (Finland), James Kwalia (Qatar), Leonard Mucheru (Bahrain) and Abel Cheuiyot (Bahrain).