Kenyans lament Diamond League scrapping 5000m

Nairobi (AFP) –


Kenya's Commonwealth and world junior 5000m champion Edward Zakayo expressed concern on Friday over the future of distance runners following the axing of the event from the Diamond League.

Last week the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) announced the overhauling of its lucrative track and field series by dropping the 5000m, reducing the number of events from 32 to 24 and leaving the 3000m as the longest race in the Diamond League programme.

"I took great offence with the announcement to remove all the distance races from the Diamond League, since the decision means most of the distance athletes like me will not get the chance to make a smooth progress from one event to another," said the talented 17-year-old high school student Zakayo, who is also the reigning African 5000m champion.

"Since the Diamond League is not offering the 10000m, and both events having been dropped from the World U-20 athletics championships, we have no alternative but to drop to the road races and the marathon, which will very hard for the younger runners like me."

Both Kenya and Ethiopia have criticised the decision as "illegitimate" and even accused it of being made to "target African nations" which have dominated the distance events.

Olympic and world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge has also voiced his disapproval, saying the 5000m had been crucial to his career, and helped him to be runner that he is.

"I believe in long term careers where track and field can result into a great marathon career," said Kipchoge, who stormed the 5000m field when he defeated Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele and Moroccan great Hicham El Guerrouj to win the world championships title in Paris in 2003.

Described as the greatest marathon runner of the modern era, Kipchoge set a new a world record time of 2:01:39 at the 2018 Berlin Marathon, and breaking the previous record by 1 minute and 18 seconds.