EDITORIAL IN TODAY’S KENYA TIMES
Team headed for Club Games must be credible
THE decision by seven Kenyan athletes to skip the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, is as unprecedented as it is shocking.
With only a month remaining before the Club games, the athletes have made it clear they will instead take part in the World Cross Country Championships in Japan while others have opted for the World Indoor Championships in Russia.
We gather that Commonwealth Games are far less lucrative than the other two events listed and the compelling reason why the athletes took the stance is obvious–they are chasing big money and such invitational foreign meetings therefore come first. National duty apparently second. :rolleyes:
(I THOUGHT WORLD CROSS AND WORLD INDOOR WERE ONLY FOR COMPETITORS REPRESENTING NATIONAL TEAMS. SOUNDS LIKE NATIONAL DUTY TO ME .kk)
Kenyan athletes, matter of fact, are regular participants in money spinning competitions outside the country with a number making a fortune while others opt to run under different flags, principally in the oil-rich Gulf emirates of Qatar and Bahrain
We have nothing against the athletes who are prompted to factor in personal comfort and material security. The track provides them with perhaps the single opportunity to fully exploit their God-given skills to full advantage. But something starts to feel untoward if there is preponderant inclination to put monetary gain first all the time. We fear that this latest move to boycott by any other name the Club Games is one such situation.
Increasingly many athletes are being lured to international meetings at the expense of national duty and at this rate it should not surprise anybody if whole national squad leave camp at the hour of need for fast the buck as Americans would say.
It’s no longer news when athletes snub national team call-up to participate in Grand Prix meetings and road races under direction of agents. But where does that put Kenya as an athletics nation and who is to blame? Athletics Kenya? Individual athletes? Their increasingly independent agents ? Or should the finger point to poverty and the fact that there is nothing much other than honour to gain for doing duty to country?
Patriotism may have been compromised here, but we must be careful before pointing the finger. Athletes want what the rest of us want. Truth is, there is usually comparatively very little remuneration after representing the country in such events as Commonwealth or Olympics—the reason why most of them opt out to try their track prowess in the rich countries in the gulf.
Part of the blame should also be directed at some clearly greedy agents who lure our athletes to take part in these races for selfish gains.
It’s absurd that this trend is going on unabated despite the body governing the sport, Athletics Kenya, having spelled out tough conditions to agents in a bid to protect the interests of athletes some of whom constantly complain of being short-changed by the same agents or managers.
A catalogue of suggestions have been floated on how best Kenya as a country can reward sparkling athletes. The government seems to appreciate this reality and has lately incorporated the corporate world to help inspire our sportsmen. More, however, needs to be done. The government to its credit for example rewarded all the medallists in the World Championships held in Helsinki, Finland, last year.
It was heartening to see that the government appreciated the success of runners, but such gesture could do with a boost from other sources. That must be the challenge for we want to have our best in the Club games and in future international meets.
Kenya is a well respected athletics nation, but we can no longer claim to hold track monopoly since there are countries like Ethiopia which have emerged in the recent years and are now giving us a run for our money especially in the middle and long distance races.
The secret behind Ethiopia’s surge is nothing other than investment in the sport. Kenya must take a cue though admittedly fewer Ethiopian runners are under the kind of grip agents have on our budding athletes.