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Local stars now facing uncertain future

ATHLETICS By Dennis Okeyo | March 14th 2020
Kenya's Ruth Chepngetich competes in the Women's Marathon at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha on September 27, 2019. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)

With dozens of international athletics events having been cancelled or postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, Kenya's star athletes are facing an uncertain future even as they continue to train. 

With the epidemic having already plunged the global athletics calendar into disarray and cast a huge shadow over preparations for spring road races, marathons, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, Kenya's runners say they are just training to keep fit but they don't know what will happen in future. 

Three-time World Half Marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor who was going to for his fourth title at the bi-annual event which was scheduled for Gdynia, Poland on March 29, said athletes have to no option but to train and keep fit. 

“It’s unfortunate that coronavirus outbreak has seen races being cancelled or postponed. We are still going ahead with our training but we are not sure when we will race. Our hope is that the world will contain the outbreak soon,” Kamworor said yesterday on a day that Kenya reported its first case of the virus.

World marathon champion Ruth Chepng'etich who is preparing for London Marathon says psychologically, she is prepared for the cancellation which is scheduled for April 26. 

“I’m training normally but mentally, I’m also prepared for anything that will happen. The London marathon race organisers are yet to communicate on the status of the event but I’m psychologically prepared for anything, I have already missed half marathon event in Spain which was cancelled last week,” said Chepng'etich who trains at Ngong. 

Bedan Karoki who finished fourth at the 2020 Tokyo Marathon which was held on March 1 this year, an event which was restricted to elite athletes only says its a torturous moment for the athletes and managers who depend on the competition to make a living. 

The Tokyo race saw over 38,000 fun runners miss out, due to health and safety fears surrounding the spread of the virus. 

“It’s getting messy every day with this spreading of coronavirus. Many athletes don’t know when they will race next, I’m lucky I competed at my last event two weeks ago, but many runners and managers who depend on races abroad financially are suffering,” Karoki said. 

The Japan-based Karoki added: “Athletes are programmed to train for upcoming events they are set take part in, but now we are just training without any knowledge of what will happen next, our prayer is that a vaccine to this virus is found soon.”

Coach Bernard Ouma of Rongai Athletics Club, the training camp for world stars including 1,500m world champion Timothy Cheruiyot, Commonwealth Games champion Elijah Managoi, Inter-continental champion Winny Chebet among others terms their training as “saving face”. 

“It’s getting worse each day, psychologically athletes are just training to save face, we are training without proper planning, the situation is unprecedented,” Ouma said.


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