THOROUGHLY PREPARED

Korir tips Kenyans to overcome pre-Olympics challenges

"I always believe in Kenyan athletes. They are extremely determined human beings, who always pull through whatever challenges they face," said Korir.

In Summary

• It has been very difficult to manage all these in the middle of a pandemic — Korir.

• Kenyans must understand that we are in Category ‘A’ of the World Athletics. 

National head coach Julius Kirwa addresses Tokyo-bound athletes at Moi Stadium, Kasarani
National head coach Julius Kirwa addresses Tokyo-bound athletes at Moi Stadium, Kasarani
Image: /ERICK BARASA

As the world awaits the start of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games on Friday, Team Kenya general team manager Barnaba Korir has reflected on what he termed as an arduous one-year journey towards the delayed Games.

Korir said it took the various federation heads, under the stewardship of Olympics Kenya to ensure that everything worked in helping the teams and individuals qualified and trained under very difficult circumstances.

The Olympic Games in Tokyo were postponed for a year following the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic and Korir reckons this has made things tough both materially and psychologically.

“It has been very difficult to manage all these in the middle of a pandemic. In order for us to participate at the Olympics, we had to petition the government, through the Ministry of Sports, to ensure that all those who have qualified stayed in a ‘bubble camp’ to minimise the risk of infections,” said Korir.

However, he says it has not been easy to convince athletes on the essence of following some of these measures. “The stress that the athletes went through in preparation was immense, but we have managed it. We already have teams that have traveled to Japan including rugby (men and women), volleyballers, sprinters, boxers and taekwondo,” said Korir.

“Save for the rugby women’s team, who were isolated for several days after traveling alongside a Covid-19 positive passenger, we have not had a positive case from our contingent.”

Korir said Kamar Etyang’s case rocked the athletics team big time. And while admitting Athletics Kenya overlooked certain rules in inviting him for the trials, Korir said the emotions and misinformation around the matter was unnecessary.

“Kenyans must understand that we are in Category ‘A’ of the World Athletics. We are not here by design. We have to be careful now that we have avoided going the Russian way despite having many athletes banned for Anti-Doping Rule Violations,” he said.

“Rule 15 dictates that an athlete who wants to participate at a World Athletics event must be tested at least thrice within a period of 10 months and the tests must be at least 21 days apart. Kamar did not meet this threshold and despite our petitions to the Athletes Integrity Unit, we couldn’t find a way around it.”

Korir said he was surprised to hear complaints about kit and allowances, insisting that there are factors that go into such.

“There is documentation in the payment of allowances and if somebody somewhere has not done his job, expect delays. Allowances go directly into athletes’ accounts and they must, therefore, sign some documents — personally — to avoid complaints,” he said.

“The kits are not necessarily tailor-made for each athlete and therefore there are delays in sorting them out. Some athletes will get theirs on time, due to the sizes available, while others might have to wait for some to be reordered or sought elsewhere.”

And despite a backlash on social media, especially on the matter of Kamar, Korir insists he has nothing to defend himself over and instead asked Kenyans to  focus on supporting the team.

“People are entitled to their feelings and their opinions and I can never stop somebody from thinking positively or negatively. In addition, these opinions do not stop me from pursuing what I believe is right. I took up this job and my aim is to deliver,” he said.

“However, I always believe in Kenyan athletes. They are extremely determined human beings, who always pull through whatever challenges they face. I know that our team will pull through in Tokyo. I’ve witnessed how motivated they are.”