Kenya came into the London Olympics with high hopes, everyone confident that we would surpass the performance of Beijing four years ago where Team Kenya scooped six gold, four silver and four bronze medals.
But the pre-Games tension between the National Olympic Committee of Kenya and Athletics Kenya has thrown Kenya’s campaign to the dogs.
It is sad watching our sports officials, with their bloated egos, fighting turf wars at the expense of the country’s respected name and image.
Many will wonder just how Vivian Cheruiyot, the double world champion (5,000 and 10,000 metres) faded away badly in the opening day’s 10,000m final and indeed why London Marathon champion Mary Keitany failed to get a medal in the marathon last Sunday.
Questions arise from the women’s steeplechase debacle and the fact that we have just Hellen Obiri in Wednesday’s 1,500m semi-finals or how we failed to break the 44-year jinx in the men’s 10,000m.
Well the answer to these questions is simple: Our officials have let us down terribly and they must do the honourable thing and take the long walk away from managing sport in the country. Period.
Management abandoned officials
We raised the flag when a dozen officials from Kenya’s Olympics management team literally abandoned athletes to rush to a pre-season camp in Bristol that meant little in terms of quality preparations, especially for distance runners.
We saw Ezekiel Kemboi travel to Bristol, and then flee back home due to the atrocious conditions there, where the recalcitrant NOCK officials set up camp merely to rake in their $300-a-day allowances, totally ignoring the fact that serious competition awaited the team at the Olympic Stadium.
The tab was picked by the toiling taxpayer.
There was drama as Vivian’s husband and personal coach, along with one of the team’s coaches and doctor were locked out of the Olympic Village by the NOCK team led by executive officer Stephen arap Soi and general team manager James Chacha, leaving Vivian, our red-hot medal hope, in tears.
Vivian was shattered and it was hardly surprising that she failed to pick herself up and take the battle to Tirunesh Dibaba.
This didn’t bother Soi and his team who have misused the trust bestowed upon them by NOCK chairman, our legend Kipchoge Keino, who, as a respected member of the International Olympic Committee, is playing multiple roles here, delegating the management of Team Kenya to Soi, Chacha and company.
Vivian’s loss on Day One should have fired a wake-up call, but rather than address the issue, Soi and company continued with their personal wars with Athletics Kenya, declaring the AK chairman, Isaiah Kiplagat, persona non grata at the Olympic Village.
As the selfish turf wars continued, we lost the men’s 10,000m, where Wilson Kiprop, winner of the controversial trials in Oregon, pulled out with an injury that the Team Kenya officials knew about at the Kasarani camp but failed to address. What a shame!
AK’s decision to hold the trials in Oregon will seriously be questioned, as will Soi’s decision to lock out one of the team’s medics while knowing that some of the athletes, like steeplechaser Lydia Rotich, who is asthmatic, needed round the clock, personal medical attention.
Journalists critical of Soi and the NOCK management team have been declared unwanted guests at the Olympic Village, Soi’s team eager to sweep the management rot under the carpet as medals continue to, painfully, slip away from our grasp.
The issue of joyriders in Team Kenya hasn’t been addressed, while the rather unprofessional manner in which distribution of training and competition kit has been managed here continues to irk the athletes, with some of them, like swimmers Jason and David Dunford, taking no chances and purchasing their own strip.
As things stand here, Kenyans should be prepared for the worst, unless Prime Minister Raila Odinga, here for the final days of the Games, works out wonders to lift the dying Kenyan spirit.
Unless this happens, I can only predict just three more gold medals from Pamela Jelimo (800m), David Rudisha (800m) and Wilson Kipsang (marathon).
Forget about the women’s 5,000m, men’s 5,000m or even women’s 1,500m where the gold medals belong to Tirunesh Dibaba, Dejen Gebremeskel and Fantou Magiso, all of Ethiopia, respectively.
No personalised training
Unless the Prime Minister cracks the whip, and unless we see the backs of the NOCK officials who have seriously let the athletes and the country down, we should not expect sporting glory to come any time soon.
The issue of pre-Games training, lack of focus by AK’s top management and the absence of personalised training for our athletes are issues we will tackle another day.
Meanwhile, we await the report of the Parliamentary team investigating similar mismanagement of the Kenyan team at the last All Africa Games in Maputo where the same officials are implicated. Will we ever learn?