NAIROBI, Kenya, August 15- In what may well be his last act at the helm of the national athletics team head coach, Julius Kirwa, alleges the National Olympics Committee of Kenya (Nock) lost the plot at London 2012 where his runners failed to scale the heights.
The tactician who led the team to their best ever return from the Olympics in China four years ago held nothing back as he told of the suffering his charges went through at the hands of Olympic Committee officials who took exception to their resistance to honour the Bristol training camp in the UK prior to the start of the Games.
A visibly dejected Kirwa who was first appointed to the national team set-up in 2002 saw his charges surrender four Olympics titles from Beijing to slide from first to third in the African medal charts.
“In London, the competition was tough. Our athletes gave it their all but from the start, we had difficulties,” the head coach admitted upon touching down from the Olympics city on Wednesday morning.
“Since the June 23 when we were handed over to Nock until the final day of competition on August 12 and to be honest, I have never been through what I experienced under them.
“I want to this since I don’t have long to stay in sport, the coaches who come after me should never be subjected to what I went through in London,” he claimed.
Kirwa disclosed the tribulations in the team started as soon as the final selection process concluded on June 23 during the track and field Trials, through the team’s training camp in Kasarani to the London 2012 Olympics.
“Everyday, I was always fighting to unite the squad. The first issue was when the athletes were directed to travel to the Olympics training camp in Bristol. They had decided to travel home and clear with their families.
“It was my duty to speak to the administration and urge the athletes to remain focused since they were upset. The Sports Secretary, Prof Wilson Langat spoke to them to his credit and managed to convince them to continue training,” he told.
“On arrival in London, we found out that one of my assistant and team doctor had been locked out of the Olympics Village and the team were surprised who would assist them.
“I cannot say much of what transpired next and I’m not defending myself. The athletes tried their best but there is need for Nock and Athletics Kenya to solve their problems and not bring them to the athletes,” the head coach lamented.
“I have taken the team this far and some officials are alleging coaches are to blame. I cannot expect anyone to level accusations against the coaches but the problem lies with the administration.”
“We kept questioning why the same set of officials who were with the team in Beijing turned against us. I suppose the resistance to the Bristol camp was the problem since even our own chairman (AK) was not allowed to come to visit the team.
“This was very puzzling and I would urge them before they remove the specks in our eyes, let them remove the logs in their eyes,” he stressed.
Capital Sport has established from sources within the squad that Sh67m was paid for accommodation alone at the Bristol camp that was supposed to run from July 3 to July 16 when the team was then scheduled to travel to the Olympics village.
Some of local and foreign professionals such as doctors and physiotherapists hired for the camp commanded fees ranging from Sh2.5m to Sh3.5m among other expenses and without the runners occupying the 60 rooms that were reserved, it will be difficult for Nock mandarins to account for the figures used.
In an attempt to pepper the cracks, Nock prevailed upon short distance runners, two swimmers, two boxers and a weightlifter to the controversial camp before also sending high ranking team officials to the UK city leaving only Joseph Kinyua, the athletics team manager as the only man in charge of the majority of the squad that was left behind.
Sources within the team also alluded to high handedness meted out on the dissenting runners mostly by Nock executive officer, Stephen Soi, who was the CEO of the squad in London.
“He quarrelled Vivian Cheruiyot and denied Lydia Rotich a chance to go for treatment in front of us and that really dented our morale. We could not believe it was happening,” one of the athletes confided in confidence.
Soi, who faced vitriolic criticism in sections of the press from London, was not available for comment since he was not among the party who availed themselves at the team’s welcome reception at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Wednesday.
On individual performances that fell short, Kirwa who was also in charge of the Osaka 2007 World Championships noted their was indication his charges gave it their all.
“I believed we had trained well, in the women 10,000, Sally Kipyego broke the national record (30:26.37) and I backed David Rudisha to break the world record (1:40.91) so there is no doubt the athletes were ready.
“Asbel Kiprop developed the injury from the heats through the semis while Lydia Rotich and Milcah Chemos had long term injuries while Wilson Kiprop was injured on and off but this is not an excuse,” he explained.
He claimed the Beijing men 1500m champion, Kiprop, who finished last in his title defence had insisted that he would finish only to aggravate of the hamstring strain after the first lap.
“But today, I’m still in dark as to what happened in the men 1500m. We had strong guys in Silas Kiplagat and Nixon Chepseba and I’m yet to recover from the shock. After the race, I asked them what happened, they told me they did not run and could not explain why, what was I to do?”
In the men 10,000m, he admitted the dropping out of African champion, Kiprop with 18 minutes gone cost the team, “Bedan Karoki and Moses Masai had no one to assist them in the pacing but we have come closer.”
For the men 5000m, Kirwa said Isaiah Kiplangat and Thomas Longosiwa lost it on the sprint.
“At the bell, there were 11 runners out of the 12 bunched in a group and when they came to the last bend, Longosiwa was blocked from the inside lane and had to move outside to get to the homestretch and there, he lost valuable seconds.”
Kirwa’s assistant, Letting, who was in charge of the marathoners conceded they had lost to the better athletes in addition to a tactical miscalculation from the women’s team.
“It was not what we expected, we expected good results but competition was tough. For women, the last few kilometres saw Mary Keitany and Priscah Jeptoo waited for each other to push together but the Ethiopian (Tiki Gelana) took advantage and raced to won the race.
“In the men’s race, the three guys, the Ugandan and two Kenyans were strong but although we did not win, we managed to get two medals in the marathon, a first. Wilson (Kipsang) developed a strain in the hip after 25km when he took a sharp corner and Abel (Kirui) took over and when the Ugandan noticed he could not take off, he went ahead.”