17 July 2012

Kenya: Now Athletes to Decide When to Leave for Olympic Games

ATHLETES have been given a free hand to travel for the London Olympic Games based on their race schedules.

National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) had earlier set July 22 as the deadline for most track stars to travel to London. However, they were forced to drop the stance after a crisis meeting held yesterday at Kasarani and attended by top officials from NOCK, Athletics Kenya, Ministry of Sports officials, athletes and their management team.

Sports secretary Wilson Langat said the athletes, who prefer training in Nairobi's high altitude climate as opposed to the sea level climate in London, are expected to sit with their officials and deliberate on their travel dates of choice. NOCK had insisted that the team must leave early enough for the Games' opening ceremony on July 27, while the athletes are rooting for a departure not earlier than July 30. Already, some athletes including sprinters, javelin thrower, weightlifter and swimmers are at the team's training camp in Bristol while the two boxers are training in Cardiff. "We have agreed some athletes will travel earlier while others will remain depending on their training programme but the last group will leave on July 30."

Athletes who spoke on condition of anonymity welcomed the move to let them decide on their travel dates as opposed to the earlier mandatory date of July 22. "This is ok with us," said one of the athletes, who is among a group that will be making their debut at the Summer Games. "It wasn't fair for them to keep bothering us with travel dates when we should be working hard on our training. We now feel relaxed because when one person is being told to do something that he or she is not willing to, then you don't know whether you are next. But I promise you nobody will travel before July 30."

Coach Julius Kirwa was happy that they have agreed at last although he said the situation was not as dire as it seems. He added that the controversy will not affect the athletes no their training. "We didn't have such a big crisis since training is going on well," said Kirwa. "This will not affect the athletes. The morale is good as you can see and all these athletes are ready to represent us in London.

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