Wiseman Were (left) and Kiprono Kosgei are eyeing the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Image Credit: Alaric Gomes/Gulf News

Dubai: Battling all odds, two of Kenya’s finest athletes are hoping to make it to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games with some assistance from Dubai.

Kiprono Kosgei and his understudy Wiseman Were have been training in Dubai – thanks to Innoventures Education - since the beginning of November to launch their campaign at meeting qualifying marks for next year’s Tokyo Games. On Tuesday, both athletes were special invitees to the students’ assembly at Dubai International Academy (DIA), Emirates Hills, where they both spoke of their trials in becoming top-level athletes, to motivate school children.

A 400m hurdler and a member of the 4x400m relay, Kosgei qualified for the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games. But, just three days before his departure to Brazil, Kosgei was informed that he wouldn’t be going as he had refused to share a certain percentage of his appearance fee with officials from sports governing body, Athletics Kenya.

Three years later, the hurdler with six others once again qualified to the national squad for the 2018 Congo African Championships. And yet again, he was dropped at the last moment. “But I’ve never given up chasing my dream. After these two disappointments I went right back to the track and continued training,” Kosgei told the students.

“I don’t think it’s fair to allow anyone to shatter my dreams. I have been honest and I have been training since I was in Grade Eight. I don’t see any reason why someone should come and deny me of a rightful place to represent my country at an Olympics.”

However, last year Kosgei met Storm Trentham - who introduced lacrosse to Kenya – during the course of the Commonwealth Games in Australia. Since then, Trentham has managed to use her connections in the Kenyan Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage. “It is now time for us to train hard for the national trials next June and meet the standard times and make the trip to Tokyo,” Kosgei, 31, said.

Kosgei has a personal best of 49.22 secs in the 400m hurdles, while the qualifying standard time is 48.9 secs. “I’m not so far away from this time. I am sure these two weeks of training in Dubai will help me achieve my Olympic dream.”

Kosgei’s training partner Were – 10 years his junior – is a 110m hurdles specialist who is also aspiring for a breakthrough in Tokyo. He too is not too far off from the qualifying mark of 13.6secs after clocking a personal best of 13.98secs. “I am the national champion of Kenya and I am in the top ten hurdles in the world. From now on, it is all about continuing to dream and staying on track,” Were told students at DIA Emirates Hills.

“I have the qualifying mark written somewhere and I look at it several times during the day. I have only that qualifying mark in my mind. I urge you all to also dream, focus and believe that you can do it.”