As Kenya seeks to produce a world champion in 10,000m since 2001 when Charles Kamathi won the gold medal in Edmonton, Canada, Japan based Josphat Muchiri Ndambiri is shaping up as a possible answer.
Ethiopians, more specifically Kenenisa Bekele, have denied Kenya gold in the 25-lap race at subsequent World Championships in Paris (2003), Helsinki (2007) and Osaka (2007).
Such is the determination to wrest the 10,000m title from the archrivals that in a break from tradition, the New KCC/AK National Championships to start from June 25 to 27 will be used to select Kenya's team for the 12th World Championships in Berlin.
Ndambiri, who runs for Komori Corporation in Japan, shot to prominence in 2007 when as an unheralded 22 year-old, he ran 28:09.0 for victory at the Trials for Osaka.
He was selected alongside Martin Irungu Mathathi and Josphat Kiprono Menjo who finished second and third in the 10,000m team.
In Osaka, Ndambiri raced 27:31.49 for fifth as Bekele (27:07.90), Sileshi Sihine (27:09.30) and Mathathi (27:12.17) occupied the podium.
Ndambiri missed Beijing Olympics last year after he could only finish seventh (28:32.29) at the selection event but has done enough this season to suggest that he is back in the frame to make it to Berlin.
"I communicated with him about the nationals and he is yet to get back but with no reports of injury, I expect him to be here," said Robert Kioni, the Nyahururu based coach responsible for many athletes from the area going to Japan.
Ndambiri holds the top two world-leading times in 10,000m. He began his campaign at the Hyogo Relays in Kobe (April 25-26) where Ethiopia's Yacob Jarso in 27:38.67 ahead of Ndambiri.
A week later at Shizouka Meet (May 3) Ndambiri ran the first sub 27 minutes time ever in Japan when he won the 10,000m race in 26:57.36 ahead of Mathathi who took second in 26:59.88.
The performance at Ecopa stadium in Fukuroi is the current world lead over the distance. On May 16, Ndambiri clocked another sub 27 minutes when winning race one of the Tendo relay in 26:58.40, the second quickest time of 2009.
If he lives to his early season's promise, Ndambiri who has displayed pedigree to compete well at the usually hotly contested Kenya Trials could be a definite shoe in for a place in the Berlin squad.
Apart from Japan based colleagues, Mathathi and John Kimondo Thuo who won Japan's Gifu race with an impressive 27:42.05, Ndambiri faces further competition for the Kenya ticket from Olympic bronze medallist, Micah Kogo, former Africa double champion, Moses Masai and 2008 World Cross senior silver winner, Leonard Komon among others.
(Xinhua News Agency June 22, 2009)