NAIROBI - Some of Kenya’s finest runners battled for a spot on the National Olympic team Saturday at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium. Thousands of spectators, Kenyan and foreign, came for a preview of the games that begin next month in London.
In a country that reveres its runners, many of whom are the best in the world, it is no surprise Kenya's National Olympic Trials were so well-attended by Kenyans and tourists from outside the country.
Saturday’s trials included the men's and women’s 800, 1,500 and 5,000-meter races, as well as the 3,000-meter steeplechase. The men's and women’s 10,000-meter trials were held earlier, and the marathoners were selected in April.
Luke Maher is volunteering in the renowned running town of Iten. A running enthusiast, he made the trip to Nairobi to see the trials.
“It is a pretty exciting day, we are pretty much seeing a replica of what the Olympics will be like, with Asbel Kiprop, David Rudisha, everyone who is everyone is here today, so it is pretty exciting stuff,” he said.
Tourist Robert Martin says he will be watching the Olympic games more closely after having attended the trials.
“You will have that special connection knowing that you saw them cross the finish line, you know, in Nairobi, to qualify,” he said.
One of the athletes Robert watched qualify for the Olympics was Vivian Cheruiyot, who will be running the 5,000 and 10,000 meters in London.
“The race today, it was good. I am really happy because I have got a ticket for 5,000 to go to Olympic games. And of course, the 10,000 last week," she said. "The squad of today, in fact, they were really strong. But I am so happy, because I have got a ticket. So it is only my turn to work hard and focus on Olympic games come next month.”
Some of Vivian’s fellow Kenyans, like Lincoln Mbogo, will be focusing on the Olympic games from the comfort of their living rooms.
“Yeah, I will be glued to my TV, because now I will not get a chance to go to London," he said. "I wish I did, but now I will have to watch it from the TV.”
But a lucky few of these spectators, like William Fort, may have the opportunity to see these athletes again in London.
“It is really cool because I am going to be in London during the Olympics, so I am really excited to maybe get a chance to see these guys compete again,” he said.
One thing is for certain. Kenyan athletes will have no shortage of fans this summer.