Athletes decry disconnect between officials and runners. Approximately 70 athletes from Nyandarua, Muranga, Kirinyaga, Kiambu and Nyeri counties were in attendance today as Athletics Kenya held their third leg of countrywide consultative meetings in Nyeri.
The fora are the first step towards eradicating the hurdles in the athletics fraternity, which pose a threat to the growth and blossoming of talent in the country.
Athlete after athlete spoke of the disconnect between them and local officials characterized by insufficient or misleading information, lack of proper communication channels and lack of access to resources, including training facilities and gear.
Upcoming sprinter Judy Alice Kingori spoke of her frustrations when seeking assistance from the local office for her training.
“There is a big disconnect here In Nyeri, for example when I moved here from Nairobi nobody followed up with me, to see whether I needed a coach or anything. So when I came to AK Nyeri office I was bluntly told most athletes around here are long distance and marathoners so they couldn’t be of help, and that was it,” King’ori narrated.
Kingori urged that the conversation be broadened to include more voices in the much-needed dialogue and joint action.
On his part, Frank Boma said many coaches lack the requisite skills to nurture young talents. “Clearly some of the coaches here are misleading our athletes because they have no idea what they are doing. But, where can you report that? The same person is probably an official, which is clearly a case of conflict of interest,” he noted.
Long-distance runner Benson Kariuki suggested that athletes deserve a bigger say in the election of local officials to enhance accountability. “The officials are never here; they only want to associate with you when you win races or things start looking up. Otherwise when you challenge them and question their leadership methods, the common line they use is to concentrate on running, because that is the only thing you know,” Kariuki said.
Just like the previous legs in Ngong’ and Chuka, other issues highlighted include: sexual harassment and exploitation of young athletes; poor investment of athletes’ winnings; rogue coaches and managers; lack of proper training facilities; and exploitative contracts.
Also in attendance was Nyeri County CEC in charge of Education and Sports Margaret Macharia who said the athletes’ concerns cannot be simply swept under the carpet.
” We need counseling sessions for the athletes so that we can walk the journey together. Be it Physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual fitness. We all need a shoulder to lean on. It is my hope that we are going to partner more with the national Athletic federation to address some of these issues,” Macharia said. Friday’s meeting heads to Nyahururu, Nyandarua County, home of former Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru.
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