Team stranded in South Africa


NAIROBI, Kenya, March 7- Kenya’s joy at annihilating the opposition during Sunday’s Africa Athletics Championships was tempered when they were stranded in South Africa.

What was meant to be a triumphant return on Monday turned to distress when the squad missed their flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg where they were to connect to Nairobi.

The team’s head coach, Julius Kirwa, expressed his anger at the incident pointing fingers at the organisers of the event.

“These people made us suffer since we woke up to find the driver who was supposed to take us to the airport absent. When we noticed he was running late, we hired taxis but when we got to the airport, we found our plane had taken off,” Kirwa disclosed from Cape Town.

Arrangements were then made by Athletics Kenya (AK) from Nairobi to return them to the hotel they were residing as alternative flights were sought.

“We are trying to get them space in the evening flight to Johannesburg so that they can be here tommorow (Tuesday). This is a regrettable matter but we shall deal with it when they return,” AK national treasurer, Joseph Kinyua, told reporters.

It was a feeling of De javu for the team since another travel hiccup saw six athletes and an official miss their flights to South Africa after a mix-up of names on their tickets and passports saw them barred from boarding on Thursday.

This was the second travel hitch to hit the Africa Cross team as six athletes and an official missed their Thursday flight to Johannesburg when the names on their passports and tickets differed in yet another mix-up. They travelled a day later to join their colleagues.

Champion, Caroline Chepkoech, bronze winner, Zipporah Wanjiru and sixth placed Norah Cheruto were the junior runners who were compelled to travel a day later. Pauline Njeri (fourth senior women) and Philip Langat (men 12km) who was not fielded in addition to assistant team manager, Jared Jilo were also affected.

At the same time, the Confederation of Africa Athletics is considering lining up the four winners at the continental championships at the 20 March Punta Umbria World Cross.

“We will discuss the modalities of how they will train them when we arrive back home since we cannot have them together with the Kenyan team,” Kirwa disclosed.

Chepkoech, her sister Mercy Cherono (senior women 8km), Japheth Korir (junior men 8km) and John Mwangangi (senior men 12km) are the continental champions who could compete in African colours in Punta Umbria