• Athletics Kenya county branch chairman Barnabas Kitilit used to host 60 athletes
• They were based in his Torongo training camp in Eldama-Ravine subcounty
Life has gotten tougher for dozens of athletes in Baringo after their coach suspended their training camp due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Athletics Kenya county branch chairman Barnabas Kitilit used to accommodate about 60 athletes in his Torongo training camp in Eldama-Ravine subcounty.
“They used to be part of my family as they undertook their training programme before the global coronavirus broke out in March,” Kitilit said.
The retired secondary school teacher, who loves sports, offered to feed, clothe, shelter and give kits to the athletes drawn from all over the county.
“But I have since set them free in the hands of their parents in respect of the Covid-19 rules, such as a ban on grouping and adherence to social distancing,” he said.
Kitilit said he used to go out of his way to accommodate some of them in his own house and hiring rental houses for the rest, before Covid-19 disrupted everything.
“Personally I could not break the tough coronavirus rules to sustain the number anymore in my house,” the coach said.
The athletes are now displaced and they have no favourable places to conduct their training.
Furthermore, most of them are becoming broke and despairing. “Some have resorted to menial jobs to sustain their lives outside the training camp,” Kitilit said.
He said due to lack of proper training facilities in Baringo, most young talents are currently training in established camps in the bordering Uasin Gishu, Nandi and Elgeyo Marakwet counties.
“I can see some leaders and prosperous athletics champions visiting them in the camps to donate foodstuffs and other assortments, but we are yet to receive any form of assistance here in Baringo,” Kitilit said.
Among the upcoming athletes who train at Kitilit’s Torongo camp are Lydia Jeruto, the world’s 800m under-18 silver medalist, and Emmanuel Kiplagat, Africa’s under-18 3000m gold medalist.
Others are 1500m Africa’s senior women gold medalist Quailyne Kiprop, Africa’s 3000m under-18 bronze medalist Gideon Rono, Africa’s Anoca games 800m silver medalist Judy Jepkoech and 400m under 18 Anoca games silver medalist Philip Olesange.
Kitilit says he is now forced to train a number of the athletes along the weather roads and primary and secondary schools fields within Eldama-Ravine.
“So far, there are no single standard training fields in Baringo. The ones that are available are shoddy and incomplete,” he said.
He cites Kabarnet and Eldama-Ravine stadiums, where the flattening and construction works have stalled.
The AK Chair said they had proposed to Governor Stanley Kiptis to put up stadiums and camps in Mogotio, Marigat Mumberes, Talai and Mochongoi, but that has not been done.
“At least things were up and running better during Governor Benjamin Cheboi’s tenure than the current Kiptis’ administration,” Kitilit said.
He also noted the stalled Kaptorokwa, Sirwa and Otany local training camps initiated by Cheboi in Baringo North and Central subcounties.
“We have tried to talk to Governor Kiptis and he promised to allocate funds to complete the facilities, but nothing is going on since then,” Kilitit said.
He said a number of athletes even got opportunities to participate in various international events abroad this year but their deals were thwarted by the pandemic.
The county has produced excellent champions including the National Olympic Committee of Kenya president Paul Tergat, former Commonwealth Games marathon silver medalist Joshua Chelang’a and Boston Marathon winner Lawrence Cherono.
“None of them has ever looked back to support the upcoming talented athletes,” Kitilit said.
Recently, Tergat withdrew the Lotto-sponsored 10km Kabarnet town road race and handed it over to the county government.