•The Japan-based runner expects heated race at the trials considering it is the first major race for many athletes
•"We need to improve on our finishing in the last bend — 200m. That is why the Ethiopians and other nationals have reigned supreme over us in the past," Karoki said.
The 2015 World Cross Country Championships silver medalist Bedan Karoki is targeting nothing short of victory at Saturday's National Cross Country Championships at Ngong Racecourse.
Karoki, who was part of the victorious Kenyan World Half Marathon team in 2016 in Cardiff, would not pinpoint world half marathon record holder Kibiwott Kandie and former record holder Geoffrey Kamworor as outright favourites in the senior men's 10km race.
"It is hard to predict who will be the outright winner in the race. Many athletes have not competed for a while and are thus fresh and ready to go. You might place your bet on someone to win and then someone else, who is unknown, emerges to clinch victory," he said.
The Japan-based runner said victory on Saturday will be the perfect foundation for his post-pandemic races.
"I have been using cross country events as build-up for the Olympics. Considering that the trials are the first major race for many of us, the competition will be heated," Karoki said.
He had planned on competing against Kamworor and Kandie — among other runners — at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon on February 19 before it was cancelled for fear of increasing Covid-19 infections.
After Saturday's event, Karoki will shift his focus to Gifu Half Marathon, slated for April in Japan, before continuing his preparations for the Tokyo Olympics where he hopes to compete in 10,000m.
"I do not want to run many races because I want to stay fit for the Olympics. I want to focus on battling for a place in Team Kenya to Tokyo," the 2011 All-Africa Games silver medalist said.
Even as he works to secure the ticket, Karoki said he has identified the key reason for Kenya's dismal performance in the 10,000m.
Naftali Temu is the country's last Olympics gold medalist in 10,000m, triumphing at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
"We need to improve on our finishing in the last bend — 200m. That is why the Ethiopians and other nationals have reigned supreme over us in the past," Karoki said.
He bemoaned the effect of coronavirus pandemic on his training and ability to participate in major international competitions.
"I raced normally in Japan and trained as usual with minimal interferences. However, I missed two crucial races — World Half Marathon Championships and the Valencia Marathon — because I could not travel," he said.
He will be reverting to road races after the Olympics with October's Tokyo Marathon his first stop.