Blow to athletes as counties close camps over Corona
Millicent Ndoro after leading in 200Mts Women race during Nairobi County 2nd Athletics Kenya, Track and Field events at Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

County authorities say they’re following President Uhuru’s Kenyatta’s orders to suspend all public gatherings.

Athletics fraternity has been hit hard following orders to close high altitude training camps in the North Rift region as a way of curbing the spread of coronavirus.

Governors of three North Rift counties; Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet and Uasin Gishu, on Monday ordered closure of all training camps, plunging athletes’ preparations for both local and international races into confusion.

Major training camps in Nandi including the Rosa Associati, Murutwo Junior and Two Running athletics training camps in Kapsabet, are now deserted and hundreds of budding and elite athletes have been asked to vacate as lock-down hits sports training programmes.

At least 2,000 local and international athletes training in various high altitude camps in Iten are now training on their own as camps implement government’s directive that banned public gatherings.

Iten Athletics training camp, which is run by veteran coach Joseph Cheromei, Lornah Kiplagat training camp which hosts a majority of European athletes and Runfast athletic camp, were shut down once Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos issued a directive on Monday.

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“I order closure of all athletics training camps and gyms with the exception of individualised training,” the governor said in a statement.

His Nandi counterpart Stephen Sang said his administration decided to close the camps in line with directives by the national government requiring suspension of all public gatherings across the country, which is a preventive measure in the fight against the fast-spreading Covid-19.

By yesterday, it was not clear whether the third edition of Eldoret City marathon would take place on April 19 as earlier announced.

“We are planning for the race and any decision as to whether it will be cancelled by communicated soon,” said Governor Jackson Mandago.

Athletes and coaches were yesterday still coming to terms with the reality of training on their own.

At Murutwo Junior Athletics camp in Nandi, hopes for junior runners, who were preparing to take part in the trials for the World Under-20, were crumbling.

Others preparing to battle for U-20 world championships include Caren Cheruto and Enostine Cheptoo – the winners of the Nandi schools competitions (500m and 1500m respectively).

“Most junior runners were also preparing to take part in the KSSSA provincial competitions, which were to take place in Nandi. The championships have since been cancelled over the coronavirus worry. As it is, I have been forced to send training instructions to runners through WhatsApp,” said Murutwo coach Andrew Kipkoech said.

“It is difficult for them to train without close watch of a trainer, but we hope the situation will normalize soon.”

Cheromei, the Iten Athletics Training Camp coach said all athletes have left the high altitude training camp.

Cheromei said he has resorted to sending instructions to athletes through text messages and social media.

“Athletes are now training on their own and under this circumstances, majority of them will miss physiotherapy, which is crucial in training. An Italian coach, who was training here, has just left. It will be difficult for us to pay coaches and camp officials because of the massive cancelation of races,” says Cheromei.

North Rift Athletics Kenya (AK) secretary Boniface Tiren said track and field competitions, which were expected to kick off at the sub-counties on March 27, have been suspended.

“We are urging athletes to adjust their minds and programmes accordingly. Our major focus this year was the Olympics and World U-20, but we not sure whether these races will take place this year,” Tiren said.


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