NAIROBI, Kenya, August 5- The upbeat Kenyan team for the 14th IAAF World Championships in Athletics that kick-off in Moscow on Saturday were among thousands of passengers stranded at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Monday evening owing to a crippling fuel shortage.
According to the team’s head coach, Sammy Rono, the squad of 49 athletes and a dozen officials were asked to deplane before their scheduled Emirates flight that was due for a 4:30pm local time (+3GMT) take-off to Russia via Dubai as the airline made frantic efforts to secure them accommodation.
“The flight has been cancelled until further notice and we were told to leave the plane since we understand the pipeline that supplies fuel to the airport had a problem. We are waiting to be taken to a hotel they are looking for to accommodate the team,” the head coach told Capital FM on phone from the airport.
JKIA officials told local media that the fuel flow would be normalised in three hours with Airport Manager, Edward Kungusi, disclosing that an air lock in one of the pumps of the pipeline led to some ten aircraft waiting for take-off to be grounded as the facility was shut down.
The team was later transported to five-star Laico Regency Hotel located at the Commercial District of the Kenyan capital for an overnight stay with Rono later confirming to Capital Sport they were yet to get details on when they would finally depart for Russia.
“We have lost a day but that is not a cause of concern since the squad had completed their training programme. Many were affected by the delays so we are not in any way feeling that this will remove the focus we have to go there and do well for the country,” he added.
The squad that is seeking to defend Kenya’s position as the top African nation at the biennial track and field global showpiece after finishing third overall at the last edition in Daegu, South Korea, with seven gold, six silver and four bronze had earlier exuded confidence they would deliver at the event that kicks-off on Saturday at the Luzhniki Stadium, in the Russian capital.
The women 10,000m and marathon squads are scheduled to compete on the first day of competition when action gets underway with Rono stating the importance of getting off to a medal-laden start.
“The moment we have been waiting has arrived. We are ready and we expect good results. So far, the training has been good and we have no injuries so what is left is for them to bring medals as needed,” he added.
Three of Kenya’s six reigning World champions will defend their titles at the August 10 to 18 event namely Olympics titleholder, steeplechaser Ezekiel Kemboi, female marathoner Edna Kiplagat and reigning men 1500m crown holder, Asbel Kiprop who took the top medal two years ago in Daegu.
Of the other three Kenyan athletes who won gold medals in 2011, 800m men record holder, David Rudisha and two-time men marathon winner Abel Kirui are currently injured, while women 5000m/10000m double titleholder Vivian Cheruiyot is pregnant.
Other medal chances include Kenyan Trials 10,000m winner Bedan Karoki, double African women gold winner, Gladys Cherono, Steeplechasers Milcah Chemos and Lydia Chepkurui, and 1500m runners Faith Kipyegon and Hellen Obiri.
National record-holder and Olympic finalist Julius Yego who is the team captain, will become the first man to represent Kenya in the men Javelin at the IAAF World Championships.