Team Kenya head coach Julius Kirwa has bemoaned the lack of depth which cost the country medals at the just-concluded World Championships in Athletics held in London.
Kirwa expressed concern that the team lacks cover in key disciplines, something he said is certain to affect Kenya’s performance in future championships unless it is addressed urgently.
Speaking on Tuesday at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport upon the team’s arrival from London, the veteran tactician said the issue needs to be addressed immediately.
“If you look at our team, we are few and we have to address the issue. If our top athletes are either absent, injured or retire and we have no cover, we will be in trouble,” he said.
“If you look at the women’s 1,500 metres, we have only one strong lady. We need back up, same to 5,000m. We have a problem. Even in men’s 10,000m. If the three guys wake up one day and say they will not run, we’ll be in a crisis,” the coach added.
David Rudisha and Nicholas Bett failed to travel to London to defend their 800m and 400m hurdles titles due to injuries.
“We will meet as coaches and look at how we can address these issues.” Kirwa was however pleased with the team’s overall performance, describing the competition as one of the most difficult.
Kenya won five gold, two silver and four bronze medals to finish second in the table of standings with a total of 11 medals behind USA. Kenya topped the standings during the 2015 edition in Beijing.
At exactly 5.45am on Tuesday, the team, led by coach Kirwa, streamed out of the International Arrivals section at JKIA and were met by their families and journalists who braved the morning cold to welcome the team.
Utamaduni Ngomas dance group belted out traditional tunes and thrilled with their dance moves. The athletes, clad in Team Kenya track suits, were decorated with flowers by friends and family members.
Two out of Kenya’s five gold medallists - Elijah Manangoi (1,500m) and Geoffrey Kirui (Marathon) - were part of the delegation that arrived. The remaining three gold medallists - Hellen Obiri (5,000m), Conseslus Kipruto (3,000m steeplechase) and Faith Chepng’etich (1,500) - did not return as they proceeded to Birmingham for Friday’s Diamond League.
The two silver medallists - Edna Kiplagat (marathon) and Timothy Cheruiyot (1,500m) were also part of the team that arrived.
Manangoi, who led a Kenyan 1-2 in the four-lap race, believes he can break the world record.
“I believe this is the beginning of my reign and I will take time to relax before embarking on my next move. My coach believes I can break the world record and I am working towards it,” he said.
Boston Marathon champion Kirui, who won kenya’s first gold in the championship, said his victory laid the foundation for a good performance by his colleagues.
“It was important to set a winning pace for my teammates and we are satisfied with the performance,” he said.
The team was later treated to breakfast at the Weston Hotel in Nairobi.