Kenyan-born American soldiers, Leonard Korir (left) and Shadrack Kipchirchir, who will represent the US at the 2016 Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro. PHOTO | COURTESY
By SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Two Kenyan-born athletes and who are active-duty soldiers will represent the United States at the Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Shadrack Kipchirchir and Leonard Korir, – both 10,000m runners – made the USA Olympic team while running under the US Army World Class Athletes Program.
According to Army Times, these runners having expended their college eligibility, then petition to get into World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) where they do a standard military enlistment and are provided specialised training in their sport.
Korir is in Oregon, the distance running capital of the US and Kipchirchir is in Fort Carson, Colorado near the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
WCAP allows elite-level athletes to train while on active duty, using their athletic success to promote the Army’s message.
Kipchirchir is a financial management technician when off the track, while Korir serves as a motor transport operator.
The naturalization process has been shortened for foreigners serving in the military. Kipchirchir’s college running days ended at Oklahoma State in 2014 and he is already naturalized.
Korir joined the Army in 2015 although his college career at Iona ended in 2011. A third Kenyan-born WCAP runner, Paul Chelimo, will be trying to make the USA team in the 5,000 meters.
Their qualification has also not gone down well with some Americans who questioned their eligibility.
“I follow Track And Field closely and I don’t recall this happening in the past. So not only are Americans being displaced in college scholarships by foreign athletes, they are now being crowded out of their own Olympic team by these same people with the aid and approval of the US military,” an agitated fun wrote.
Another one went ahead to link President Barack Obama to the Kenyan athletes, saying: “One can only wonder why the current group are all from the President’s father’s homeland and the conduit – the United States Army – is linked to the Commander-In-Chief.”