Twenty two members of Team Kenya on Monday morning arrived from the just ended Gold Coast Commonwealth Games to a low key reception as the media struggled to get interviews from them.
Unlike before when the athletes got down to jigs and dances upon their arrival, this time they virtually disembarked incognito with some avoiding press interviews.
Ideally, it has always been pomp and colour when Team Kenya is arriving from a major championships regardless of the results.
Few of them had their ceremonial uniforms and none of the medallists who arrived wore their medals, even as they picked welcoming flowers from government officials only to evade the traditional dancers.
It was a cat-and-mouse game between the media and some athletes with the media practically chasing most of them around for interviews.
The Kenya Airways plane carrying the athletes and officials touched down at 6.05am at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from Bangkok, Thailand.
The government also had provided a shuttle bus to ferry those who didn’t have transport to town but it’s only the table tennis players Sejal Thakkar and Brian Mutua, who used the transport with the rest preferring to take personal means.
Among those to arrive were the new Commonwealth Games 1,500m champion Elijah Manangoi and Timothy Cheruiyot, who got silver in the same race.
Cellphine Chespol and Purity Kirui, who claimed silver and bronze in 3,000m steeplechase respectively and Margaret Nyairera, who won silver in 800m, were also among the contingent of 22 to arrive.
The 2015 World javelin champion Julius Yego, who relinquished his Commonwealth title after failing to reach the event’s final and Alex Kiprotich, who reached the javelin final also disembarked alongside coach Julius Kirwa.
It was Kenya’s worse ever show at the “Club Games” since the 1982 Brisbane, Australia Games, collecting 16 medals; four gold, seven silver and five bronze.
Manangoi, who was the Team Kenya captain at the “Club Games” said all stakeholders including the government and sports federation must sit and chart the way forward after the disappointing outing in Gold Coast.
“Signs have always been there with the dwindling standards across all the sporting disciplines be it athletics, boxing swimming among other disciplines,” said Manangoi, who challenged the government to invest in sports.
“You really don’t expect to reap handsomely from what you didn’t sow,” said Manangoi, adding that there should be a deliberate plan to set up camps for every sport across the country to tap and mould talent.
“It’s shocking to have lost women’s steeplechase and all the marathon titles. It’s not the first time Uganda is beating us at the long distance events,” said Manangoi, who called on Athletics Kenya to convene a proper meeting to review and not only discuss Commonwealth Games, but the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2017 London World Championships.
Manangoi said he prepared well for the Commonwealth Games and thanked his coach Ben Ouma and his training mates Timothy Cheruiyot and Kumari Taki for their great support in camp.
“Gold Coast was my focus since the start of the season and I am happy to come home with victory,” said Manangoi.
Manangoi said his next focus is the Diamond League, where he targets to break the World Record time of 3 minutes and 26.0 seconds, either in Monaco on July 20 or at the IAAF Permit Meeting in Budapest, Hungary on July 1 and 2.
Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj holds the World Record time of 3:26.00 set on July 14, 1998 in Rome, while Manangoi boasts of the ninth fastest time in 1,500m of 3:28.80 set in Monaco last year.
Managoi will also target the Africa title during the continental championships due August 1 to 5 2018, in Asaba, Delta-State of Nigeria where Africa will select its team for the IAAF Continental Cup planned for September 8-9 this year in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Kirwa, who was one of the coaches said the selection criteria must be discussed, adding that Athletics Kenya and the government must find ways to remunerate or compensate athletes when it comes to big events.
“It goes down to money issues where athletes will rather focus on training for races where they will earn money than events like the Commonwealth Games. A good example is the marathon where we had to settle for weak teams after key athletes declined,” said Kirwa.