The first of 14 consultative meetings on athletes’ welfare kicked off this morning in Ngong’ as hundreds from the town and its environs turned out to air their grievances, suggestions and concerns on how to grow the sport.
Speaking while opening the discussions, Athletics Kenya (AK) director of youth development, Barnaba Korir, described the meeting as the first stage towards diagnosing the ills and ails of the athletics sector.
“I am happy to see that many of you have turned up today more than we had anticipated for this important discussion. At the end of this programme, we need to ask ourselves…what ails the industry? How can we help our athletes,” Korir said.
Korir also expressed optimism that the relationship between various stakeholders in the industry will be strengthened through these consultative meetings as everyone’s responsibility becomes clearer.
“One of the things we have to discuss today is the relationship between athletes and the federation. What role does the federation have to play to support and what do you need to do as an athlete. We have to deviate from shifting blame and move towards taking responsibility when we fail,” he said.
During the deliberations, athletes were afforded an opportunity in an open session to speak out on pertinent issues that need urgent attention to better the sport at an individual and overall level. Among the matters that came to the fore include: doping; poor investment of athletes’ winnings; sexual harassment and exploitation of athletes; lack of affordable training facilities and gear; rogue coaches and agents; exploitative contracts; empowerment of coaches; and gender-based violence.
One of those in attendance was double Olympic 5000m silver medalist Hellen Obiri who urged the federation to clamp down on unscrupulous individuals who prey on the fruits of athletes’ sweat.
“An athlete signs a contract and does not know whether the money goes to him/her or the coach. Also, I would urge the federation to look into training camps that claim to be exclusively training female athletes. What is so special that they are only training female athletes,” Obiri said.
The next consultative meeting will be held in Machakos on Tuesday.
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