Athletics Kenya Dictates Terms and Conditions to Kenya’s Team for the Moscow World Championships, by Justin Lagat
Immediately after naming the Kenyan team going to Moscow for the World Championships, Athletics Kenya (AK) vice chairman, David Okeyo, asked the athletes to hand in their passports to the federation by the end of the day. Although he claimed that it was to necessitate quick processing of travel visas for the athletes, the main reason could have been to ensure that no athlete in the team gets to travel out of the country for other competitions before the World Championships. He also warned the athletes that participating in other competitions before then will result in being dropped from the team.
In 2009, Sammy Kitwara won in the 10,000m event during the trials for the world championships in Berlin. He defied the warning and went ahead to participate in a road race before the championships and was disqualified from the team. Leonard Komon, the 10km and 15km world record holder, has also suffered the same fate by defying the orders after making the team to represent the country at the world cross country championships in 2011.
Some of the athletes who just made the Kenyan team this weekend were anticipated to participate in some upcoming Diamond League races. Asbel Kiprop had promised his fans, on his Facebook account a couple of weeks ago, that he was going to try out something in the 1500m event at the IAAF Monaco Diamond League meeting on the 19th of this month. Now that he has been named in the team, it is not clear whether AK will turn a blind eye on him and let him run anyway, or whether his fans will have to miss watching him at the event.
A number of athletes were able to participate in more than one event during the last world championships in Daegu, where Vivian Cheruiyot won two gold medals in the 10,000m and the 5,000m events. This time round, AK has decided to deny the athletes the chance to double their events. Asbel Kiprop already had an automatic wild card in the 1500m event and had plans to try his luck at the trials in the 800m event in order to double in Moscow, but everything changed a few days to the national trials when the program for the trials was scheduled in a way that would allow athletes to participate in one event only.
Athletes named in the team will also have to now shift their training bases to a compulsory national training camp where they are going to train under new national coaches.
Questions always arise as to why AK would not just leave the athletes to feel free to train the way they want, under their usual coaches? For now, the marathon team will be training in Iten while the rest will hitch their camp at the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi. Because of health reasons, Priscah Jeptoo was exempted last year from the marathon camp that was preparing for the Olympics at Iten after she complained of the weather there affecting her. She consequently ended up performing better than her compatriots at the London Olympics.
Even after making the team and reporting to the national training camp on time, there have always been incidences where athletes have been replaced in the team a few days to the championships. The same happened last year to Anderson Mureta and Mark Mutai who were in the 4x400m relay London Olympics bound team. There is a high possibility that changes may take place in the Kenyan team before they depart for Moscow.
While AK could perhaps be putting forth all these measures hoping to increase the chances of more medals at the world championships, they should also be aware that most of the top athletes in the country are already beginning to shun participating in the trials and in joining the Kenyan team. A number of marathon runners turned down the offer to be in the team to Moscow. Some long distance runners as well who were invited to run in the trials failed to turn up. Perhaps it is time AK begins to listen more to the athletes.