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Urgent measures needed to cushion Kenyan athletes

A day before taking to the battlefield, the national boxing team, Hit Squad, were dealt a severe blow after the organizers of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games blatantly rejected their outfit.

In Summary

•On July 30, marathoner Eric Kiptanui was left speechless after he discovered his name had been omitted from the starting line-up of the men's marathon list.

•Things got even worse for Team Kenya. Days later, the 2020 Los Angeles Marathon champion Margaret Wangari found herself a lone ranger in Kenya's quest to recapture the women’s marathon title.

Kenya's Nicholas Okoth in action against Erdenebat Tsendbaatar of Mongolia
Kenya's Nicholas Okoth in action against Erdenebat Tsendbaatar of Mongolia
Image: REUTERS

The Kenyan contingent to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games kicked off their campaign in the most bizarre fashion.

A day before taking to the battlefield, the national boxing team, Hit Squad, were dealt a severe blow after the organizers of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games blatantly rejected their outfit.

In an exclusive interview, the Boxing Federation of Kenya (BFK) communications director, Duncan Kuria, confirmed the incident, saying the shorts set aside for the Kenyan boxers were rejected for having a 'Nike' logo on the belt.

He shared a video that captured an official of the International Boxing Association (IBA) at the Commonwealth Games rejecting part of the Kenyan boxers' kit. 

Things got even worse for Team Kenya a day later, when the 2020 Los Angeles Marathon champion Margaret Wangari found herself flying the country's flag in the quadrennial global showpiece without any of her compatriots by her side. 

Wangari, 36, was the only athlete Kenya had entered in the women's marathon race.

Apparently, Wangari's partners, including 2019 Standard Chartered Bank Nairobi Marathon champion Purity Changwony and 2021 Rotterdam Marathon champion Stella Barsosio, were struck off the list at the last minute under mysterious circumstances.

A lot more was still in store for the country. On July 30, marathoner Eric Kiptanui was left speechless after he discovered his name had been omitted from the starting line-up of the men's marathon list.

This despite the athlete having traveled several miles with the Kenyan team to Birmingham.

Unknown to him, Kiptanui had been replaced by Erick Kiplagat Sang, 21, who featured in two 1500m races in 2021 and a half marathon this year.

Surprisingly, Sang was not in Birmingham for the event.

The development revealed a glaring howler committed by the Committee that is tasked with placing the names.

Kiptanui was forced to sit on the sidelines as the gun went off to start the race with only two Kenyans battling for honours in the bristling race. 

Kiptanui called out the placement committee, insisting someone must have slept on the job at his expense. 

The rules of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) stipulate that athletes' names could be replaced either as a result of the pandemic, doping, or medical reasons.

Before the Commonwealth Games, Kenya's Philemon Kacheran was handed a provisional suspension after the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) found him guilty of using a prohibited substance. Michael Githae, who was initially on the reserve list replaced him.  

With the kind of chaos witnessed thus far, it's only important that things are straightened out once the team gets back to the country. Encouragingly, Team Kenya chef de mission, John Ogolla, has promised to resolve the hiccups upon their arrival from Birmingham. 

“There are conditions to follow in late athlete entry. Unfortunately, we tried to change that but because of the Commonwealth Games policy, we were unable to,” Ogolla said.

“So it's just going back home and looking at our processes so that we don't find ourselves faced with a similar problem in the future.”