Team Kenya had threatened to quit the London 2012 Olympic Games over a controversy regarding training, it has emerged.
Athletes were very angry with the National Olympic Committee of Kenya’s (Nock) for planning to send them to Bristol for training – against their wish to camp in Nairobi.
Speaking to the Nation at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Wednesday morning, Kenya head coach Julius Kirwa revealed that timely intervention by Sports Secretary Wilson Lagat saved the day.
“The athletes had decided enough was enough and packed to leave for home but I should thank Lagat for his visit since I had tried a lot to keep people together,” said Kirwa.
Sports Minister Paul Otuoma promised a full report of an enquiry into the performance of the team in London, where Kenya finished 28th overall, would be made public.
“This time, I want to state that we shall not hide anything. When the report is prepared we shall release it to the public to know what really happened,” said Otuoma, who was in London for the duration of the Games. “We will have to make hard decisions to avoid a repeat (of Kenya’s London Olympics outing).”
Trouble began after trials
Kenya managed 11 medals, including two gold, and ended up being the third best African nation behind archrivals South Africa and Ethiopia.
“I have handled the national team since 2002 but never witnessed what we went through at Kasarani and I wouldn’t like another coach to go through a similar experience,” Kirwa lamented, saying trouble began after the national trials on June 23 when Athletics Kenya (AK) handed over the team to Nock.
“Coming up with a training scheduled that didn’t involve athletics management was, to say the least, a bad move by Nock and I wish people had consulted first.”
Kirwa added that the worst thing Nock did was to lock out deputy head coach Sammy Rono and team doctor Victor Bargoria from the Athletes Village yet they were part of the management that prepared the team.
He said the bad blood between AK and Nock would continue unless they resolved their differences amicably.
“The coaching staff played its role well,” Kirwa said. “The Bristol training was the cause of all the problems. I don’t know why they should be blamed yet they are the same ones who took the team to the Beijing Olympics.”
Kenya won six gold, four silver and four bronze in the Beijing Games.
While denying he took injured athletes to London, Kirwa said no athlete is ever 100 per cent fit in any championships.
On Asbel Kiprop’s failure to finish the race, Kirwa said the Beijing Olympic 1,500 metres champion sustained a hip injury in the heats: “It might have worsened in the semi-finals owing to the wet conditions but he assured me he would run comfortably in the final. What shocked me was the performances of Silas Kiplagat and Nixon Chepseba in the metric mile.”
The coach disclosed that 3,000m steeplechase runner Milcah Chemos and Wilson Kiprop in 10,000m had recurrent minor injuries.
Nock president Kipchoge Keino however absolved Nock from blame for the dismal show that shocked a nation whose hopes were heightened by the team’s performance in the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.
“I shed tears of joy upon seeing them (athletes) arrive because of the patriotic songs dancers brought by Brand Kenya were singing. I did not curse the team and whoever said that should apologise,” Keino said.
Interestingly, Team Kenya executive officer Stephen Arap Soi, the subject of much of the criticism, was nowhere in sight.