GOLD medal hopefuls from Kenya were due to start using the facilities at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College (SGSC) today as part of their Olympic preparations.
Members of their athletics team, including current 800m Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo and 800m world record holder David Rudisha, arrived in the country yesterday.
They will have access to the running track, the gym and other areas at the WISE Campus in Filton over the next two weeks, while staying in accommodation at the University of West of England before moving to Olympic Village in London.
Delegates of the Kenyan Olympic team agreed to stay in Bristol when viewing the facilities last November, and although their middle and long distance runners will now travel straight to London later this month, the 800m, 400m, 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay athletes, and lone javelin thrower Julius Yego, have flown in for the pre-London 2012 training camp.
SGSC director of sports academies, Simon Panes, said: “For us it is a fantastic occasion and we’re delighted to be welcoming them.
“A lot of work has gone on in the last couple of years.
“We’re going to have world champions and I’d like to think a couple of gold medallists training here.
“For our staff and students to view world class athletes it should be a great experience for all.
“There is also the legacy aspect with 21 schools coming to see them and the Bristol-Kenya partnership growing.”
The £1.3m sports complex at Filton is named The Kip Keino Athletic stadium after the Kenyan legend opened it in 2010, and the National Olympics Committee of Kenya chief flew in with the squad yesterday.
Panes said: “He’s always got stories that are incredible, just to have him here is great.
“You cannot help but be in awe of the guy and to have him here is incredible.”
The College has developed its reputation for sport in recent years and they will have plenty of interest in the Olympics and Paralympics.
Former pupil Darius Knight is part of Great Britain’s table tennis squad and he returned with his Olympic torch at the sport academy’s presentation night recently.
Another table tennis star who used to attend the College, Will Bayley, will be competing in the Paralympics, which start at the end of August.
Their most recent product, Ibrahima Diallo, was selected for Great Britain’s category eight football team for the Paralympics after only being diagnosed with a mild form of cerebral palsy last November when on trial for England College.
The former Bristol City youth player, who has just completed his course at the College, has since finished as top scorer at the Paralympic World Cup, where he scored in Britain’s final defeat against Brazil, and has also played for England Colleges’ able-bodied team. Panes believes all this will inspire more stars to emerge from the College in the future.
He said: “We will have more athletes at the next Olympics but having the Kenyans here is a great start for us and it’s an exciting time.”