Kenyan athletes express fear over Coronavirus

By Dennis Okeyo and AFP: Saturday, February 29th 2020 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
Kenya's Hellen Obiri celebrates winning the Women's 5000m final at the 2019 IAAF Athletics World Championships at the Khalifa International stadium in Doha on October 5, 2019. [Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP]

As concerns mount over the coronavirus scare, Kenyan athletes have expressed fear the spread of the virus could affect their track and field series which in turn may affect participation at the Tokyo Olympics Games.  

So far, the outbreak has seen some competitions postponed and others cancelled outright with about 80,000 people infected, the vast majority in China, raising concerns over the upcoming international sporting events including Diamond League series and Olympics Games in Japan.

Last month, World Athletics cancelled the 2020 World Athletics Indoor Championships which was slated for March 13-15 in Nanjing, China, because of fears over the spread of the coronavirus in country.

Two-time world 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri yesterday voiced her concern over the virus as Kenyan stars prepare for global track and field season.   

“As athletes, we are greatly concerned over the coronavirus. You can see some of the events such as world indoors has been cancelled. This outbreak must be contained before May or otherwise our preparation will go to waste. But at the moment we will just continue with normal preparation,” Obiri said.

Timothy Cheruiyot, the world 1500m champion, who is currently preparing for the his fourth Diamond League trophy and Tokyo Games, is however, optimistic that the looming outbreak will be contained before May.

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“We are keeping our eyes on the preparations right now with the hope that the coronavirus spread will be contained before Diamond league circuits starts. It will be huge disappointment if the major sports events are cancelled. Our prayer is that scourge will be addressed in time,” said Timothy.

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee is “fully committed” to holding the 2020 Games in Tokyo as planned despite the widening new coronavirus outbreak, the body’s president has pledged.

The IOC “is fully committed to a successful Olympic Games in Tokyo starting July 24”, Thomas Bach told Japanese media in a conference call late Thursday, according to Kyodo News.

The comments came as the viral outbreak across Japan and dozens of other countries fuelled concerns about the Summer Games, with a swathe of other sports events postponed or cancelled.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stepped up national measures to contain the virus, calling on organisers of large events to consider cancelling or delaying them.

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