Athletics coach Julius Kirwa bemoans planning flaws as Kenyan squad returns home

By Dennis Okeyo: Tuesday, April 2nd 2019 at 00:15 GMT +3 | Athletics
Athletics - 2019 IAAF World Cross Country Championships - Aarhus, Denmark - March 30, 2019, Uganda's Joshua Cheptegei, Jacob Kiplimo and Kenya's Geoffrey Kamworor during the men's race [Courtesy]

Athletics coach Julius Kirwa has turned the heat on Athletics Kenya for failing to plan for the challenging course in Aarhus, Denmark as the Cross Country team struggled to keep pace with Ethiopia and Uganda.

The uphill, downhill, mud and windy conditions appeared to take toll on the Kenyans with only world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri and Beatrice Chebet- the reigning world Under-20 5000m champion managing gold medals in women’s senior 10km and women’s junior 6km races respectively.

“Uganda and Ethiopia sent their coaches and team managers to Aarhus in January to study the course. We didn’t. We prepared the team with the usual course we are familiar with,” the highly respected coach said.

He added: “It was clear our team lacked the stamina to conquer the eight hills on the Aarhus course. In future, AK needs to send a coach in advance to study the course and report back to the camp.”

"We left here on March 28 and arrived Copenhagen the following day, then covered another five hours by road to Aarhus. In short, we didn’t have enough recovery."

Kirwa spoke yesterday when the team arrived from Denmark.

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Kenya played second fiddle to eternal rivals Ethiopia and emerging Uganda prompting heightened debate in social media about the team’s preparedness.

According to team manager Benjamin Njoga, the monstrous 125-meter climb up the roof of the Moesgaard Museum was too tough.

“It seems we underestimated the course. Although we did lots of hill work in training it appears it wasn’t enough. In future, AK will be sending scouts to the venue to see the course first hand,” said Njoga who is also AK Prisons Service chairman and Deputy Director General of Kenya Prisons Service.

It was the first time since 1984 that Kenya finished out of medal bracket in the U20 men’s race at the World Cross despite entered high-quality field Samuel Chebole, Emmanuel Kiprotich, Leonard Bett, Edwin Koskei, Charles Karuri, Kibet Kandie that struggle from the outset on the 8km course. Bett finished a distant fourth in a race won by Ethiopian.

Kenyans, however, were heartened by Obiri’s commanding performance, whose victory meant, she becomes the first woman to win outdoors, indoors and cross-country world individual titles at the senior level to emulate Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia.

“The course was very tough. It required lots of mental preparedness. I had to push my body to the limit to ensure I got what I wanted,” said Obiri upon arrival at JKIA yesterday.


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