Why Kenyan athletes are feeling effects of coronavirus in Europe
Senior women lead by Sheila Chelangat and Immaculate Anyango (left) during National Cross country championships at Ngong Race course ahead of Africa Cross country championships to be held in Togo. Feb 15, 2020. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The effects of the rapid spread of coronavirus across the world and especially Europe has hit local athletes hard with Athletics Kenya (AK) forced to suspend all clearance and travel for local runners.

The news of events being cancelled or postponed has hit Kenyan athletes as they are set to miss out on financial gains in winning bonus and prize money.

Yesterday AK responded to the Ministry of Sports’ directives addressed to all sports federations and organisations which suspended foreign travel by suspending all the clearance of the athletes who want compete in races abroad.

“Following a directive from the Government of Kenya and due to the global outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, Athletics Kenya has suspended all clearance and travel to international events for athletes and athlete support personnel until further notice,” read the AK letter.

AK further said: “In a bid to safeguard the athletes and consequently the country from the virus, we urge all athletes to cancel travel arrangements for the next one month pending further communication.”

The cancellation of the races and government directives is already hitting hard with some runners learning of the cancellation of the events they were due to take part in while already in the host city.

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Last week Irene Kimais, Lydia Njeri among other runners travelled to France to take part in Paris Half Marathon only to be told the event had been postponed.  

“It’s something beyond our control, we had prepared for the race and even travelled to Paris only to be informed of the cancellation. Our prayer is that the outbreak be contained soon,” said Kimais.

National Cross Country champion Sheila Chelangat was also a victim on Wednesday having travelled from her training base in Kericho to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where she was scheduled to travel for a road race in Spain slated for this weekend only to learn of the government directive on international travel for international sporting events.

“I had not seen the government directive but learned about it when I was just about to check-in, I had to cancel my travel plans and go back to Kericho,” said Chelangat.

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