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MUTUKU: Games were shifted but NOC-K's focus remains

Wednesday July 22 2020
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Malkia Strikers players celebrate on the streets of Yaoundé after their win against Cameroon at Palais polyvalent des sports (Paposy) Arena in Yaounde on January 7, 2020. PHOTO | SAMUEL GACHARIRA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By FRANCIS MUTUKU

The National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) is committed and looking forward to celebration of the Olympics in 365 days with the Kenyan flag strongly represented by a well-prepared Team Kenya. 

Today, we begin the one-year countdown to the postponed and highly anticipated Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games which will now be held from 23rd July to 8th August 2021.

For NOC-K, the goal was shifted but the focus remains the same. Even though we were forced to adjust to the new normal, we have kept the focus in keeping our athletes engaged and motivated and continued to prepare administratively, as our commitment to make Tokyo 2020 the most memorable and enjoyable Olympics for all participants.

The first step was to get sports people compliant in observing the Ministry of Health guidelines in stopping the spread of coronavirus in Kenya. Everyone played their part in the team and our athletes went even further to champion messages of awareness and prevention in their communities.  

Athletes, both who have qualified for Tokyo Olympics as well as those who are on the qualification pathway have tried to remain focused, to stay fit and healthy, albeit the difficult circumstances.  

NOC-K appointed a strength and conditioning consultant in March to work with athletes and coaches for improvements in this area. 

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He has been very instrumental in this pandemic period in following up on athletes online and visits where necessary, and together with the Elite Development Team, they have been NOC-K’s ears on the ground on the needs of athletes.

NOC-K has also tried to keep athletes engaged through conferences on various topical areas to ensure the wellbeing of the athletes following the disruption and to use the downtime to educate them to improve themselves. 

Since May, NOC-K has held webinars on fitness, mental health, nutrition, managing personal finances, anti-doping, personal branding and mindset of success.

As an Olympic Committee, we have committed ourselves to stand with the athletes on their Olympic dreams. 

We will ensure that athletes have the necessary environment and tools to get ready for the Olympics in a year's time.

Part of the efforts include the personal training equipment that NOC-K will issue to all qualified athletes to support their fitness training.

Several athletes, both qualified and on the qualification, pathway is on scholarships.
They have continued to receive their scholarship funds, which have been utilized in this period mainly towards training.

We are still pursuing other scholarships through our partners, Olympic Solidarity and ANOCA (Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa), to have as many athletes as possible benefit and to give them the best chance of success towards Tokyo 2020.

In Rio, Kenya sent its largest ever Olympic Games delegation with a total of 89 athletes, 47 men and 42 women, competing across seven disciplines. 

We are targeting to increase this number to 100 for Tokyo 2020, and to make the team the best prepared in history.

By the time the pandemic was declared, the following was the status of qualification:
Sevens rugby (men and women), Volleyball (women), Swimming (two wild cards),Tae Kwon Do (One female qualified and Boxing (one male, one female).

The following events were cancelled while they were in a qualifying stages: Judo, Wrestling, Canoeing.

Beach Volleyball missed the qualification event held in Nigeria and Gambia because Kenya had banned travel of athletes due to confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Nigeria.

Athletics Trials were planned for June 19-21, 2020.

Other sports on the qualification pathway were; Cycling, Karate, Badminton, Table tennis, Archery and Shooting.

Internationally, only 57 percent of the qualification quotas had been filled.

IOC confirmed that all quota places already qualified remain allocated. 

International federations are working on new qualification dates to get the remaining 43 percent to qualify.

The accreditation process was also brought to a standstill end of March 2020.

Following the announcement of new dates, TOCOG has now embarked on accreditation process and we will commence this process to ensure compliance.

Kenya had also taken strides in the Pre-Games Camp.

We had entered into an MOU with Kurume City who agreed to host Team Kenya’s pre-games camp. 

Kurume City officials visited Nairobi in November 2019 and the contract was signed on their second visit on February 13th 2020. Kurume City are still committed to hosting Team Kenya on the new dates in 2021.

The Tokyo Operations Committee meetings resumed in June.

The team has been working on the Operations Handbook, which has been finalised. 

This is in line with NOC-K’s commitment for professional management of preparation and participation of Team Kenya.

The Management Team was also in operation. The team was constituted of Presidents/Secretary Generals of Federations that were still on the qualification pathway while the qualified teams were being represented by Team Managers.

At the appropriate time the meetings will resume.   

The government had also set up the Tokyo Games Steering Committee and Central Management Committee, but they were yet to hold their first meeting before cessation of movement was declared.

In the meantime, we have decided to play safe as we wait on the Ministry of Sports to give the Return to Sports guidelines.

We are grateful to all our partners and stakeholders, especially the government for the very close collaboration we have maintained on this front.

We also urge, corporates who had either made commitments or were considering their support to Team Kenya to join us as we walk through this journey.

All these efforts are towards ensuring that the Tokyo Olympics entrench positive memorable memories in the minds of participants and Kenyans at large. 

This will be our time to inspire the nation.

We look forward to a huge celebration in Tokyo in the next 365 days to mark the resilience and triumph of sports over human adversity.
 

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