Sun, 19 Sep 2021

NAIROBI, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Team Kenya overall captain, Eunice Jepkoech Sum, has backed the class of Tokyo 2020 to surpass their record medal tally from Rio 2016, where they won 13 medals (six gold, six silver and a bronze).

Sum, who was speaking from Japan after a light training session, urged her compatriots to be patient after Kenyans took to social media to lament the poor results so far.

The East African nation that topped the African medal charts in Brazil is yet to medal at Tokyo 2020, with the country's four boxers and men's rugby team bowing out of the podium race at the preliminary hurdle.

The women's volleyball side opened their campaign with successive 3-0 defeats to host Japan and South Korea, while Kenya's women's beach volleyball duo lost 2-0 to Brazil.

All indication is once again the East Africans will rely on their celebrated track and field team to be their source of medals from Japan.

Boxing remains the only other sport to produce a medal for the nation at the Olympics but the last from the ring came at the Seoul 1988 Games in South Korea.

Kenyans took to social media in their droves on Tuesday and the early hours of Wednesday to slam the performance.

They expressed their dissatisfaction under the trending official hashtag #TeamKenya following the elimination of the men's sevens team and the fall of the boxers in the preliminaries.

"My wish is to see Team Kenya perform much better than the other Olympics. It will be my greatest achievement to go home with more medals than the previous ones," Sum, 33, said on Wednesday.

The Moscow 2013 women 800m world champion who followed it up with bronze at the Beijing 2015 Worlds in China, took over as the overall captain for Team Kenya when Olympics Javelin silver winner, Julius Yego, stepped down from the role on July 5.

She made her Olympics debut at London 2012, competing in 1500m but her interest ended with a first-round exit during the heats.

On her return to the Summer Games in Rio four years later, Sum had dropped down the two-lap distance that was a perfect fit for her running, but her race ended in the semifinals of the women's 800m.

By then, Sum had established herself as a force in the women's 800m, winning the 2014 Commonwealth and African double in following up her first world title in Russia the year before.

She was part of the track and field contingent that arrived in Japan on Monday, with the keen English Premier League Chelsea FC fan seeking to exit on a high at her last Olympics.

"The weather here is good, and it is not too much (a bother). We have been to previous events like this (hot conditions) like the previous World Championship," she remarked on the baking conditions in Japan.

After three seasons of underwhelming performances, Sum worked herself back to the kind of form that made her a dominant force at the distance between 2013 and 2015.

However, she missed out on a medal at the Doha 2019 World Championship where she finished fifth.

Sum was unable to carry the momentum into 2020 when the Olympics and other major global races were canceled due to the pandemic.

The experienced athlete is, however, now adjusting to the new normal of performing in empty stadiums at her third and final Olympics.

"I know we have been used to crowds cheering us, but we have to follow what is the procedure now because we understand there is a pandemic. More people will be cheering us even on the streets," the 1:56.99 lifetime best runner in the 800m who will take the first step on the Tokyo 2020 track in Friday's heats added.

In acknowledging that she might not be among the favorites despite the pedigree that she brings to the Olympics, Sum maintained her primary target was to reach Tuesday's women's 800m final.

Her main objective having been given the responsibility of captaining the team is to lead the squad to outshine Rio 2016 and she is backing the class of Tokyo 2020 to do just that.

"We are in a good position. I have seen the training we have been doing, I think we are up to the task and I think we shall perform better than the previous Olympics," Sum added.

Kenya actually won more medals at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in China, 16, (six gold, four silver, six bronze) than Rio although the "weight" of the medals in Brazil (six silver to four) ranks the latter as a record performance.

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