The easy part of selecting the team to represent this proud home of athletics during the London Olympics is over. The crucial one, which is to prepare the qualified athletes, begins in earnest.
Athletics Kenya ( AK) and National Olympic Committee of Kenya ( Nock) have done a commendable job in ensuring smooth selection. But even as we pat their backs, we hear echoes of disagreement over the date Nock wants Team Kenya to go to its base in Bristol City, England. Nock wants the team to go to Bristol on July 4, about 23 odd days before the Olympics Games begin. Athletes and AK want the team to train in Kenya, understandably at a high altitude. The athletes say training at a lower altitude, such as Bristol, would undermine their regime. Instead, they prefer Nairobi.We believe it is a reasonable demand going by the scientifically proven benefits of training at high altitude. We believe Nock and the athletes will resolve this matter, without undermining Team Kenya. When the dust settles after the trials, AK and Nock should review their development programmes to ensure we produce athletes for sprint events and other disciplines. That the majority of team comprises long distance athletes points at skewed development programmes. Kenya won Olympic gold in Munich 1972 in 4x400m, and a silver four years earlier in Mexico City, thanks to such greats as Hezekiah Nyamu, Robert Ouko, Charles Asati, and Julius Sang. We also commend corporates that have put forward a reward scheme.
Safaricom have pledged Sh1 million for gold medal winners, Sh600, 000 (silver), and Sh400, 000 (bronze). The Government has also come up with a good scheme where it will give Sh750, 000 to gold winners, Sh500, 000 (silver), and Sh300, 000 for bronze. The pledges will go along way to motivating the athletes in pursuit of the Olympic glory. But then for these athletes to earn the rewards, they will have to prepare adequately, which requires money. Nock needs Sh400 million to prepare and send close to 52 athletes, two boxers, and two swimmers, who have qualified for the quadrennial event. It is an onerous task to raise this kind of money. It therefore calls for corporates to stand up and be counted for patriotic contributions to the national Olympic contingent.