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Flight schedules acrimony at Olympic camp

NAIROBI, July 31 – There is grumbling in the Kenya Olympics team camp over the scheduling of departure dates to Beijing, China.

A number of athletes are unhappy with the flight schedules, complaining that they would arrive in China either too early or too close to their competition dates.

The first batch has been booked to depart on Friday, 7 days to the official start of the games. Other team members are then to follow on August 3, 11 and August 16.

At a meeting with team officials Thursday, the athletes complained that if they arrived at the extremely hot and heavily polluted Chinese capital too early, their performance would be affected.

Similarly, if they got there much later, they would not acclimatise well to the six-hour time difference and the harsh weather conditions.

Joseph Kinyua who is the head of the athletics team said: “Athletics Kenya has pleaded with them and some have agreed to leave on agreed dates even though they strongly feel their performance could be affected."

Athletics Kenya (AK) Secretary General, David Okeyo said the current flight schedules were based on prior requests by the athletes.

"When they requested we delay their departure, we agreed and reserved seats for August 11. We also considered their latest request and working to secure bookings for August 6, 7 and 9," he said.

Steve Kisaka, Marketing Manager for Emirates Kenya said: “We changed the bookings for those athletes we could but our flights to Beijing from Dubai are fully booked until August 17”.

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Kisaka confirmed that Okeyo and airline officials had spent most of Tuesday changing reservations.

8 Reserves dropped

In another turn of events, eight of the reserves named in the athletics team by AK to travel with the national team have all been dropped from the squad.

Okeyo said the directive came from the Beijing Olympics organising committee who said they would only accept the competing team into Beijing much to the chagrin of the Athletics Kenya who had selected the reserve athletes.

The reserves dropped are (3,000m steeplechase men), Paul Kipsiele Koech, (10,000m men) Leonard Patrick Komon, (5,000m men) Isaac Songok and (5,000m women) Peninah Arusei.

Others include, (10,000m women) Philes Ongori, (marathon women) Rita Jeptoo, (marathon men) Luke Kibet and (800m men) David Lekuta Rudisha who declined to join the team’s residential camp at Kasarani to focus on his Mock Exams.

Inclusion of the reserves to the 37 athletes who were named after the trials caused undue anxiety, as allegations that some selected runners would be replaced by the extras overshadowed training.

Last week Okeyo said, only selected athletes would compete at the Olympics but the alternates would travel, in case of any eventualities.

Olympic dream dashed

Its sad news for talented Kenyan swimmer Pina Ercolano’s wild card entry was rejected by the international swimming federation.

The swimming team manager Joe Mutune said that Kenya had presented an appeal for the wild card entry, but the global body said that Kenya had already qualified with two swimmers, Jason and David Dunford, ruling out Ercolano.

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Ercolano who is based in South Africa had adequately prepared for the games, and had even skipped her exams, but said she won’t give up and looks forward to the next edition in 2012.

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