LONDON -- Kenya was the top performing African team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, winning a total of 14 medals, six of them gold.
But this summer in London, says Gordon Oluoch, Nairobi's Commissioner of Sports, the team expects to best its medal tally of four years ago. Speaking with VOA in front of a big poster of David Rudisha -- world record holder at 800 meters and one the country's favorites for gold -- he says Kenya is offering perhaps its strongest Olympics lineup ever.
“We are fairly confident, but not overconfident, and I think we will do fairly well," he says. "This may be probably our best Olympic outing ever, potentially, judging by the number of gold medals we expect to get."
Some of that expectation falls directly on Rudisha, captain and flag-bearer for opening ceremonies, who is bidding for his first Olympic title. While Oluoch describes Rudisha as being in top form and ready to win gold, he also expects to see Kenyans mounting the podium in other track events as well.
“We expect to do well, of course, in our traditional event, the three-thousand meters steeplechase," he says. "We expect to do well also in the men's 1500 meters, where our athlete [reigning Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop] posted the best time in the world this season [3:28.88 on July 20th], so we are quite optimistic there."
He also points to the women's 5,000 and 10,000 meters, where Kenya's Vivian Cheruiyot will try to duplicate her achievement of last year's world championships in South Korea by winning gold in both events, as another point of optimism.
Kenyans are also expected to contend for medals in the women's and men's marathons, which are staged for August 5 and 12 respectively.
Describing the Olympics as a great unifying force for all Kenyans, he says the team recently held a moment of silence for Sammy Wanjiru, the 2008 Olympic marathon champion who died last year after falling from a balcony at age 24.
Wanjiru's Olympic record run in Beijing, he says, will always be remembered by Kenyan athletic fans.
“It means a great deal to them. The Olympic time is a great time for Kenyans. This is the time when the whole country rallies behind one point," he says. "We have our differences of a political nature and a social nature, but when it comes to the Olympic Games, everybody is united behind the team."