SHANGHAI 800M WINNER KISASY: ‘I PLAN TO RUN UNDER 1:43 THIS YEAR’

While it is perhaps a little premature to speak of David Rudisha’s successor as the planet’s premier two-lap runner, especially as the two-time world and Olympic 800m champion and world 800m record holder is still only 29, it is inevitable an athlete will one day emerge to replace the Kenyan great.

In recent times several athletes have loomed as potential challengers to Rudisha’s long-held status. The 2017 IAAF Diamond League champion and 2012 Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos of Botswana boasts strong credentials. World champion Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, the charismatic Frenchman, is another with a burgeoning profile but perhaps it is Commonwealth 800m champion and Shanghai Diamond League winner Wycliffe Kinyamal Kisasy* who is best equipped to take on the mantle.

ATHLETICS ROOTS IN THE HIGH JUMP

Just 20, the exciting but raw Kenyan boasts many similarities to Rudisha. The pair grew up just 11km apart in Narok County. Like Rudisha, Kinyamal is a Maasai and the duo both have a similar long, raking stride which eats up the ground with ease.

Yet Kisasy’s journey as one of the world’s most exciting 800m talents is a little less formulaic than most.

Born the fifth of six children, Kisasy’s father and three brothers share a passion for football, but the middle-distance star has no interest in kicking a ball. Instead, he started his sporting journey as a promising schoolboy high jumper.

Boasting a personal best of “around 2.00m” he finished in the top five in Kenyan national age-group championships before a comment from a friend in late-2015 that running might improve his high jump was to radically change the whole direction of his athletics career.

RAPID RISE

At the time based out of Keringet, he took up running and rapidly discovered a latent talent. After just a few months training he made his 800m debut, running 1:49 to win in Bondo in February 2016. Two months later he struck gold at the East African Regional Junior Championships in Tanzania – a victory which crystallised a belief his future may lie as a middle-distance runner.

“At that point I was still training on my own in Keringet (the base of world and Olympic 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon),” he explains. “I was very happy with the times I had run (over 800m) after only a few of months training.”

Despite his inexperience, in June 2016 he finished third at the Kenyan Junior Trials - and just one place shy of a place on the two-man Kenyan team for the World U20 Championships team – slashing his personal best by one second to record 1:46.8.

JOINS SANG’S CAMP

Clearly boasting a special talent, he was picked up by the athletics management agency Global Sports Communication and in early 2017 Kisasy moved from Keringet to Kaptagat to come under the influence of leading Kenyan Patrick Sang – a switch which has accelerated his meteoric development.

Wycliffe Kinyamal Kisasy winning Commonwealth 800m gold (Getty Images)Wycliffe Kinyamal Kisasy winning Commonwealth 800m gold (Getty Images) 

“Since Patrick started coaching me my life has changed,” adds the softly-spoken Kinyamal, who in his spare time loves to sing to Maasai music. “When he asks me to do something, I have total faith in what he is telling me to do.”

Training largely on his own for track sessions, twice a week he joins Sang’s world-class long-distance training group for easy runs led by Olympic marathon champion and Kenyan running colossus Eliud Kipchoge.

“I have learned so much since training with them (the distance-running group),” he says. “They are a big motivation.

“Eliud offers regular advice. He tells me training is a struggle and that I need to work hard.”

Further progress came last year. On his seasonal debut in Nijmegen he ran a PB of 1:46.56. In his next outing, he scalped a further 0.89 from his lifetime best to place second in Hengelo.

INJURY FRUSTRATIONS IN 2017

His progression in 2017 was frustratingly stunted by a hamstring injury and he limped to sixth spot in the heats at the Kenyan World Championship Trials in Nairobi. The issue meant he missed two months of competitive action only to return in late August in Rovereto, Italy, where Kisasy made another giant leap forward in his fledgling career by taking victory in a stunning new personal best of 1:43.94.

“I followed the pacemaker and later (Antoine) Gakeme from Burundi,” he explains. “I moved to the front at 250m and started to push the pace. The time surprised me.”

Making his 2018 seasonal debut indoors in Dusseldorf, finishing second in 1:46.54, he also revealed another similarity to Rudisha – a lack of aptitude for running indoors.

“I found it hard running around the tight turns, because I am tall,” he explains.

A week-and-a-half later in the more familiar outdoor running environment he secured second spot at the Kenyan Commonwealth Games Trials, recording 1:44.72 - just 0.08 behind Jonathan Kitilit - to book his ticket on the Kenyan team for Gold Coast.

All smiles - Wycliffe Kinyamal Kisasy after winning the Commonwealth 800m title (Getty Images)All smiles - Wycliffe Kinyamal Kisasy after winning the Commonwealth 800m title 

In Australia, Kisasy backed up his raw talent to reveal genuine championship pedigree – the mark of any great champion. In the final, he hit the bell in third before making his winning move and kicking past the fading 2014 Commonwealth champion Nijel Amos at 250m.

Holding a significant advantage down much of the home stretch he repelled a blistering late charge from Englishman Kyle Langford to clinch gold by 0.05 in 1:45.11. 

Aiming to win “any medal” before the Games to take victory was the icing on the cake.

“Winning gold has given me a lot of confidence,” he says. “My career ambition now is to do a lot more in the future. I am still young and I need to do more at the 2019 World Championships (in Doha) and 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.”

AMBITIOUS 2018 GOALS

His Diamond League debut in Shanghai offered further evidence of his gifts. Edging a titanic tussle from Kitilit in a personal best time 1:43.91 he sent another thunderous statement to the 800m running world that he could be the man to beat for the rest of this season.

“I feel I have good speed-endurance and I plan to run under 1:43 this year,” he explains of his qualities and future plans for 2018.

Aged just 20 and with a little over 20 competitive 800m races in his life his best is clearly yet to come. Meanwhile, working under the astute and often patient stewardship of Sang is another positive sign.

Which brings us to one final question: does Kisasy have any plans to return to the high jump?

“No,” he says with a smile. “I have left the high jump in the past back in Kenya.” And after his dazzling transition into the 800m who could blame him.

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Health ministry, Governors sign MoU on Cuban doctors

The Health ministry has signed an MoU with the Council of Governors on the hiring of Cuban doctors.

At the ceremony on Monday, Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki noted that specialised services are important for Kenyans.

"We are ready to support this initiative by Governors," she said after signing the agreement alongside CoG vice chair Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga).

Waiguru said the process that surrounded the deal was "very consultative and inclusive" and that counties will receive the specialists they need most.

"The journey towards universal healthcare is a long term undertaking that requires regular consultation and coordination between the two levels of government and all actors," she noted.

The national government and counties will share the costs of having the 100 Cuban doctors who will arrive later this month.

A memorandum signed by Kenya and Cuba shows each county will get at least two.

The doctors will work hand-in-hand with their Kenyan counterparts to roll out a range of medical services that are expected to radically change how a large number of life-threatening diseases are managed.

Universal healthcare is one of four pillars that President Uhuru Kenyatta has prioritised in his second term. The others are food security, manufacturing and affordable housing.

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Kenya: First Batch of Cuban Doctors to Arrive July

The first batch of Cuban doctors is expected in the country in July to help tackle the malaria pandemic, the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday, brushing aside rising opposition from local medics.

Waqo Ejersa, the Head National Malaria Control Programme at the Ministry of Health (MoH), said Kenya is expecting 10 vector control experts and an additional 100 doctors from the communist state, following agreements signed during President Uhuru Kenyatta's recent visit to the island nation.

Dr Ejersa said the Cuban experts will oversee the spraying of stagnant water bodies in eight counties around Lake Victoria where malaria prevalence is high.

The preventive method, scientifically known as larviciding, involves killing of mosquitoe larvae.

"The spraying to be carried out by the special team from Cuba will involve application of bio larvicides to the breeding sites. The biological products used will interfere with growth of mosquitoes from the larvae stage. The first phase of the programme will last two years and we have reserved Sh500 million for the project," said Dr Ejersa during a malaria briefing in Nairobi.

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Kenya, Cuba sign deal Sports CS Echesa enters deal with Cuban counterpart to develop sports in both countries

Sports Ministry Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa has signed a 5-year deal with his Cuban counterpart Dr. Antonio Becali that will see Kenya benefit immensely towards sports development.

According to the contract signed yesterday, both parties will work towards raising the sporting level in both countries under the ‘innovative exchange’ program.

The agreement will implement activities such as organisation of sports programs, access to sporting facilities and equipment. Training and development of coaches and specialists has also been factored in the deal as well as academic exchange. Both countries will together explore issues like ports medicine, community sports and participation in long and middle distance races, doping control, sports management and computer Science applied to sports.

According to the CS Advisor on Communication & Strategy, Isaac Nyangay, other activities will be undertaken as may be agreed. Kenya is renowned global powerhouse in middle and long distance running meaning Cuba stand to benefit immensely from high altitude training programs by the expertise of local coaches and athletes.

Likewise, Kenya stands to benefit from Cuba who have dominated amateur boxing for years on the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) calendar.

Until the 1980s, Kenya was once a power house in boxing with Robert Napunyi Wangila winning the country Africa’s maiden Olympic Games gold and Steve Muchoki winning a World championship gold medal in Belgrade in 1978. But as technology and sports investment took centre stage in global boxing, the country’s fortunes have dwindled.

The introduction of computerised scoring meant a nosedive into the country’s gains in boxing.

Due to historical associations with the United States, many Cubans participate in sports which are popular in North America rather than the traditionally promoted in other Latin American nations. Baseball is by far the most popular other popular sports and past-times include boxing, where Cuba is a dominant force to reckon with.

The partnership will also focus on areas of performing Arts, visual Arts, Music, Heritage, film, cultural information and research.

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Cuban, Kenyan presidents vow to strengthen bilateral ties

Cuban President Raul Castro on Thursday met with his visiting Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta, with the two sides agreeing to strengthen political and economic relations.

The two sides expressed satisfaction with the official inauguration of the Kenyan embassy in Havana, which is scheduled to take place on Friday.

Castro also thanked the Kenyan government for its support and donation last year after Hurricane Irma hit Cuba's north coast, costing more than 13 billion U.S. dollars in economic losses.

Earlier in the day, Kenyatta unveiled a statue of his late father and Kenya's founding President Jomo Kenyatta at a park in Havana.

In a speech made after paying tribute to other African independence heroes at the park, the president stressed the need to strengthen ties among developing nations, including their bilateral relations.

"I thank the people of Cuba for their constant solidarity with the African nations. Africa will always keep its relations with Cuba high and together we will continue developing our beneficial links for the prosperity of our peoples and nations," he said.

In 2016, Kenya opened its embassy in Havana to boost future cooperation in sectors such as commerce, education, culture and health.

Kenyatta will return to Nairobi on Saturday after a three-day official visit to the Caribbean nation. 

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Cuba, Kenya Seek to Strengthen Relations By Opening Embassy

With the opening of Kenya''s embassy in Cuba this week the two countries seek to strengthen their political and cooperation relations, agreed sources from the two nations.

The inauguration of the diplomatic headquarters in this capital will be held next Friday, in the context of the official visit to the island of the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, scheduled from Wednesday to Saturday.

Nairobi and Havana have expressed their willingness to expand the ties established in 1995, which have solidarity as their characteristic, according to the parties.

According to data published here, 60 Kenyans graduated in the Caribbean country until the 2015-2016 academic year, while five currently study at the Latin American School of Medicine.

Cuba has had the support of Kenya in forums of the African Union and the United Nations in its demand to lift the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States for more than half a century.

Regarding the visit of Kenyatta, spokesman Manoah Esipisu highlighted the 'special historical relations of Cuba with Kenya and with Africa'.

Cuba began its ties with the African liberation movements in the 1960s, and the Cuban revolution was a great inspiration, particularly during the struggles on the continent against colonialism and apartheid, he warned in Nairobi.

Esipisu pointed out that the president's trip will boost bilateral relations in areas of mutual benefit, among which he mentioned the public health.

According to the program of the visit, Kenyatta will pay homage in this capital to the national hero of Cuba, José Martí, and to the African heroes, and will hold official talks with high host authorities.

On Friday he will participate in the inauguration of the embassy and on Saturday he will complete his stay in the Caribbean nation.

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Uhuru Kenyatta's leaves for historic visit to Cuba

President Uhuru Kenyatta heads to the Caribbean in a historic visit to the island of Cuba on Tuesday, seeking a helping hand for his healthcare policy in the Big Four Agenda.

The president will be visiting the region for the first time since he took office in 2013.

It will also be the first visit by a Kenyan head of state since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 2001.

State House said on Monday that the agenda of the trip will be boosting cooperation in health, sports and culture.

OPPORTUNITY

“Cuba has a well-developed health sector which has achieved great milestones such as discovery of vaccines against lung cancer, and the eradication of malaria. Cuba is also home to a thriving pharmaceutical industry,” State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu said.

“There is a great opportunity during the President's visit for the two nations to expand the MoU on implementation for the achievement of universal healthcare, an important deliverable in President Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda,” Mr Esipisu added, referring to an agreement signed between Kenya and Cuba last year.

MODEL

Officials say the President sees Cuba as important in helping him achieve some of the Big Four issues, which include universal healthcare, adequate housing, manufacturing and food security.

Cuba, despite being under the communist leadership of Fidel Castro - who died in November 2016 - for five decades, has achieved what the World Health Organisation calls a model healthcare system.

Based on socialist tenets, Castro engineered a system based on accessibility and preventive medicine (vaccination) and regarded health as a basic human right.

MORTALITY RATE

Health services are offered for free and include check-ups, surgery, medical dispensing and doctor visitations.

Under Fidel’s brother Raul, the World Bank reports that Cuba’s community health has remained intact, reporting an infant mortality rate of four in 1,000 live births and a life expectancy of 80.

Kenya’s infant mortality rate is 37 out of 1,000 live births while the life expectancy is 62.

LOW SALARIES

In Cuba, one medical doctor can serve up to 150 patients, beyond the World Health Organisation standard ratio of one doctor per 300 people.

In Kenya, a doctor has to work harder because he stands for 16,000 patients.

A preparatory concept note for the President’s visit said Kenya could tap into Cuba’s pharmaceuticals as well as its medical missions.

VECTOR CONTROL

“The President will explore how to build Kenyan capacity, increase the number of medical specialists in orthopaedic surgery, oncology, neurology, and trauma management; and collaborate in research on cancer and diabetes drugs, and eradication of malaria,” State House said on Monday.

“Cuba is interested in registering and selling its pharmaceutical products in the Kenyan market. It is also keen to cooperate in vector control.

President Kenyatta will encourage Cuba to set up a pharmaceutical plant in Kenya to serve the East and Central Africa regional market.”

SANCTIONS

Cuba’s engagements with the outside world had been limited until 2016 when the US agreed to lift the sanctions it imposed on the country in the 1960s, and reopened its embassy in Havana.

President Barack Obama then made a historic visit to Havana. A few months later, Kenya announced it would open an embassy in Cuba.

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Kenya land invite: National boxing team set to train in Cuba ahead of Commonwealth Games in April

The national boxing team ‘Hit Squad’ has been invited to participate in a Four Nations training-cum-tournament camp in Cuba ahead of the April’s Commonwealth Games slated for Gold Coast Australia.

Boxing Association of Kenya (BAK) chairman, John Kameta, said the deal for the Four Nations event was realised during the AIBA Congress in Dubai, where he held extensive talks with officials from the Cuban Federation.

“Depending on availability of funds, the Hit Squad shall be traveling to Cuba to join the hosts United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Ethiopia. We are discussing with the government on this issue and we hope all will be well. We also want to establish what the hosts will offer on the event so we can firm up everything,” said Kameta.

The national boxing team, which returned from India Open International Championship last Sunday, has been joined by their sparring partners at Police Depot in Mathare Nairobi where they are shaping up under coach Patrick Maina of Prisons. All the losing finalists AT the Kaloleni trials are in the team as non travelling sparring partners.

Kameta said the final team of seven men and four women will be named just before departure to Gold Coast to avoid over confidence by boxers who may be selected.

“We are back at Mathare, where the boxers have been training prior to India event. The one thing with Mathare depot is that its home to Police training base where we will enjoy good teamwork,” Kameta said. Kenya failed to win medals at the India event but Kameta reiterated it was good practice for the boxers ahead of Gold Coast.

The Kenya team is scheduled to begin their final phase of preparations at Madison Square Garden, Nakuru, which is synonymous with Kenya’s world beaters among them Philip Waruinge, who is one of the greatest boxers to have represented the Hit Squad.

Provisional squad for Commonwealth Games—Light fly: Shaffi Bakari (Police), Matayo Keya (KNH); Fly: Mohammed Ali (Kongowea), Simon Mulinge (KDF); Bantam: Benson Gicharu, Isaac Meja (KDF); Light: Nick Okoth (KDF), Ethan Maina (Police); Middleweight: Edwin Okongo (KDF), Erick Otengo (Prisons); Light welter: Victor Onyango (KDF), Joseph Shigali (Police); Welter: Jacob Kimathi (Prison), Boniface Mugunde (Police); Middle: Edwin Okongo (KDF), Erick Otengo (Prisons); Light heavy: Nick Abaka (KDF), Peter Abuti (Prison); Heavyweight: Elly Ajowi, Frederick Onyango (KDF); Super-heavy: David Njuguna (Police), Fredrick Ramogi (KDF); Women: Fly: Christine Ongare (Nairobi), Veronica Mbithi (Dallas); Light Welter: Lornah Kusa (NRB) and Ruth Odongo (Kisumu).

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