Athletics Kenya President Jack Tuwei is optimistic Kenya will remain at the top of global athletics in the 2017 World Championships year.
In a New Year’s Day interview with Nation Sport, Tuwei said 2017 is a most important year as several major championships are lined up right from the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kampala in March to the blue riband IAAF World Championships in London in August.
Kenya emerged overall champions in these two events in Guiyang and Beijing, China, respectively and will also have the added pressure of hosting the final edition of the IAAF World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi in July besides competing in the IAAF World Relays Championships in Nassau, Bahamas, in May.
He said the early selection of managers and coaches for the world events will hold Kenya in good stead.
“It’s another season and I want to urge the athletes to continue working hard,” Lt Gen (rtd) Tuwei, a former commander of the Kenya Army said in the Eldoret interview, warning Kenyan athletes to be on the lookout for “unscrupulous elements keen on capitalising on their hard-earned success.”
He is happy with the progress Kenyan athletes have made in the build-up to the cross country championships to be held on March 26 in Kampala.
“Last year, towards the end, we started preparing for the cross country season by organising the national series as one way of getting ready for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kampala,” said Tuwei.
“We did early selection on officials and Evans Bosire, who is the team manager for the World Cross Country Championships, is in Japan to monitor our athletes’ training.
“We have seen Japan-based team as the strongest so far and that is why we are monitoring them closely,” said Tuwei.
The AK president said the federation is looking forward to fielding a strong team that will bring glory home in March and pointed out that they selected officials early so that they could follow up on athletes before the team is selected from a squad including those based outside the country.
Juma Ndhiwa is the cross country head coach and so far, he has been monitoring the athletes in all meetings of the series that have taken place.
Tuwei regretted that the unfair doping allegations against Kenyan athletes had deterred potential athletics sponsors with mobile telephone services provider Safaricom and sportswear giants Nike the only financial supporters on Kenyan athletics.
“Last year, we had a lot of issues on doping and the Rio fiasco has made sponsors shy away, including KCB, who have been our sponsors for a long time. It’s only Safaricom and Nike who are still sponsoring our events for now,” he said.
He urged sponsors not to shy away since the “AK house is in order” and most athletes have been running clean.
NEW MIXED RELAYS
“I want to urge the sponsors not to run away since we have athletes who run a clean sport and we will always depend on them. The few elements that were caught faced the law including four years ban which will discourage those who want to do that in future,” said the president.
This year the IAAF has introduced the new category of mixed relays at the Bahamas championships that will see teams featuring a mixture of two male and two female athletes.
Tuwei says they will use the Kenyan relay series to prepare the athletes for the Bahamas championships.
Tuwei, who is also the chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the World Under-18 Championships that will be held in Nairobi, said he is confident preparations will be on course for the July 12 to 16 championships.