Managing youth to senior level vital for their success

Sunday August 13 2017

Kenya's Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon (centre) celebrates winning as South Africa's Caster Semenya (left) grabs third, and USA's Jennifer Simpson (right) second place in the final of the women's 1,500m at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 7, 2017. PHOTO | JEWEL SAMAD |

Kenya's Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon (centre) celebrates winning as South Africa's Caster Semenya (left) grabs third, and USA's Jennifer Simpson (right) second place in the final of the women's 1,500m at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 7, 2017. PHOTO | JEWEL SAMAD |  AFP

By ELIAS MAKORI
More by this Author

On Saturday night, Kenya stood second on the IAAF World Championships medals table behind runaway leaders USA.

It is inevitable that after topping the standings with seven gold medals in Beijing two years ago, Kenya will have to relinquish the overall title that will now go to Donald Trump’s runners and throwers when the action draws to a close on Sunday.

But this does not deny the fact that Team Kenya has had a brilliant championship here with outstanding performances that should make us all proud.

With all it’s massive resources and facilities, hosts Great Britain, for instance, were battling for only their second gold medal with Kenya boasting three already in the bag before last night’s finals.

The dearth of medal ability in British athletics is already causing jitters at UK Athletics (UKA) that largely relies on medal-based funding from UK Sport. UK Sport pegs its financing of associations on how they perform on the global stage, with UKA setting a target of six to eight medals from Team GB athletes here.

Before Saturday night’s session (which had finals in both short relays, men’s javelin, women’s high jump, decathlon and men’s 5,000 metres), Team GB had just one medal from Mo Farah’s opening day win in the 10,000m.

Remember Team GB is a collection of England, Wales and Scotland. And while they had just one medal, Kenya had seven! UK Sport has voted £27.1 million (Sh3.6 billion) towards UKA’s build-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Athletics Kenya doesn’t even have government allocation for next month’s activities!

Such is the stark contrast in funding between Team Kenya and Team GB, which is why we need to appreciate the success of our athletes here so far, given the circumstances.

The world would shudder at the thought of a well-funded Kenyan track and field team.

A team with long-term goals and transition management that ensures athletes who win medals at the world under-18 and under-20 championships go on to reach the podium at senior competitions.

I’ve already challenged Athletics Kenya on other forums to constitute a “Transition Management Committee” that will help improve the conversion rate of young athletes to the senior stage.

A committee that will also mentor the young athletes through the difficult transition period, especially the girls who often fall prey to randy managers and other unscrupulous handlers.

One of the main reasons why we often tell rags-to-riches-to-rags again stories of our athletes is because academic development is hardly the priority once the young stars start banking athletics cash.

They are immediately thrust into the Diamond League circuit where money-hungry agents burn them out for short-term, selfish financial gains. We need to protect and nurture our athletes.

We really must protect out athletes and take care of their all-round development.