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SPORTS

Olympics plans now a muddy affair

ATHLETICS By Stephen Rutto | March 29th 2021
Senior Men 10KM competitors at Ngong Racecourse during AK/LOTTO National Cross Country championships cum trials for Africa Cross Country championships 2021. Saturday, Feb 13, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The sporting fraternity nodded with ecstasy when partial resumption of competitions was announced last September. 

The athletics world had been hit hard after training camps were closed down and races suspended as the country tried to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. 

And with the much-awaited resumption, Nairobi staged the inaugural Kip Keino Classic Continental tour in October. 

But on Friday, as preparations for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games were gathering pace, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced strict measures that included indefinite suspension of sporting events and partially locking down Nairobi and four other counties. 

By yesterday, with the latest measures plunging planned events into uncertainty, stakeholders in athletics were still scratching their heads on the best way to prepare athletes for the global show set for July and August. 

Athletes were ready to gauge their preparedness through Olympic qualifying races including Athletics Kenya (AK) track and field, which remain suspended.

The National Olympic Committee -Kenya (NOC) had identified Kipchoge Keino stadium as the place of training for track athletes from the North Rift region, but athletes said they were unaware whether large groups of athletes would prepare for races in designated areas during the pandemic period.

Daniel Simiu, who missed the opportunity to represent Kenya in 5000m at the 2019 championships, said he was relying on the AK meetings in his race to secure a slot in team Kenya to Tokyo.

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“I have been training hard in Iten (Elgeyo Marakwet) and Kipchoge Keino Stadium (Uasin Gishu). I have no foreign race this time because I knew AK meetings would prepare me well ahead of the national trails,” Simiu told Standard Sports on phone.

Simiu, who is seeking to represent the country in 5000m, finished third in the first leg of the AK track and field event in Nairobi, behind Gideon Rono and Rodgers Kwemoi.

“The recent developments are still confusing, but we are hoping clear guidelines on training and competitions will be issued soon. I am in top shape and ready to compete,” Simiu said.

Rogders Kwemoi in action during the National Cross Country Championships at the Ngong Race Course, on February 13. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

AK Youth development committee chairman Barnaba Korir yesterday said the Federation is waiting for guidelines on how athletes will train and compete under the recent orders.

"At the moment, the Ministry of Sports and other stakeholders are working on Covid-19 guidelines and it is our hope that preparations for the Olympic Games is given consideration," Korir said. 

"The federation is ready to adhere to guidelines by the Ministry. Athletes have been following most of the measures during their individual training."

Korir said, before the guidelines are released, Kenyan athletes eying slots to the Olympic Games can still use international races to measure their form.

"We are lucky that foreign races are ongoing and our athletes can still take part and test their performance ahead of the Olympic Games," he said. 

He added that the pandemic is also putting preparations for World Under20 championships and Kip Keino Classic Continental Tour, which will be held in Nairobi after the Olympic Games, to test.

In Iten, renowned coach Joseph Cheromei, the man commanding the camp where world half marathon record holder Kibiwott Kandie trains, said he will continue training athletes in camp under strict adherence to existing Covid-19 protocols.

Kandie, who is preparing to line-up at the Istanbul half marathon on Sunday April 4, said local races would have offered athletes without international races before the Olympic Games to prepare.

Kandie had announced his plan to represent Kenya in 10,000m with focus on ending the 53-year wait for a gold medal in the event.

“All is not lost because camps have not been disbanded and foreign races are taking place. The biggest challenge is that it will be difficult for athletes who are not in the military and the police to travel to Nairobi as they leave the country for foreign races,” he said.

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