Athletics Athletics

Deserted Valentine could miss Worlds- JKIA fire


VALENTINE-KIPKETERNAIROBI, August 7- Debutant Valentine Kipketer Jepkorir, 20, could miss the dream chance to represent her beloved country at the World Championships in Moscow on Saturday after the female marathoner missed her Emirates Airlines flight out to Russia via Dubai on Wednesday evening owing to the fire that razed Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) causing its shut down.

The Stanchart Mumbai Marathon titleholder who ran her 2:24:33 lifetime best whilst winning the event on January 20 is holed up at a Nairobi hostel awaiting her fate as her manager struggles to get her to travel and beat the entry deadline for the event after she was left behind by her teammates on Tuesday morning when she over-slept after yet another Monday Emirates flight was cancelled owing to a fuel outage at JKIA that grounded all flights.

Two Kenyan born Bahraini athletes also on their way to Moscow were also affected but they still have time to make it to Moscow since their events start later after the opening day on Saturday where Jepkorir is expected to start at 1300Hrs (+3GMT) local time.

Her sorry plight points at inept management by Athletics Kenya (AK) appointed team officials, who were with her at a five-star Nairobi hotel where they were moved after being ordered out of the plane on Monday after she was left behind sleeping as the rest went on to board their alternative flight, no one contacting her to alert her of the re-scheduled call time since she was allocated a room alone.

“I was to travel with the rest of the team on Tuesday, but I overslept. When I woke up there was nobody at the hotel,” the shattered athlete said when news filtered through JKIA had been shut down after the early morning fire.

“I thought all athletes had left for training, but I was shocked to find out that they had left without me. I tried calling the coach (Sammy Rono) but it was no use. He was not within reach,” Jepkorir who was second in Hamburg last year and was a first timer in the Kenyan set-up added wondering how no official in the team including Team Manager, Bernard Njoga or head coach, Sammy Rono, who are duty bound to maintain a roster of athletes under their watch attempted to contact her.

AK Vice President Paul Mutwii confirmed that Kipketer was due to fly out on Wednesday night although latest reports indicated passenger planes had not been cleared to use the airport at the time following the blaze.

“It was sad that she did not travel with the team. But again when we have rescheduled her flight, disaster strikes. I hope normalcy will be seen and she will join the team in Moscow latest Friday,” he said.

Kipketer is in the women marathon squad alongside defending champion Edna Kiplagat, former Dubai marathon silver medallist Lucy Kabuu and Margaret Agai.

At the same time two Bahrain athletes, who were camping in Iten, were left with no choice but to postpone their trip as they fire caught the airport in Nairobi.

The duo was forced to look for alternative means of transport after flights from the Eldoret International Airport to the JKIA were cancelled.

Steeplechaser Tareq Mubarak and 10,000m Hassan Mahbub were expected to be in the Russian capital Thursday to join their camp in preparation for Worlds.

“My race was scheduled for the 12th and I feel I have been inconvenienced since I required to be settled and get enough rest to participate well in the championships,” stated Tareq.

The athletes expressed their displeasure at the cancellation of services explaining that his colleague Mahbub was to have his race on Saturday and the delay may affect his performance.

He however, expressed optimism that normalcy would resume in the major airport to ensure that air traffic does not inconvenience passengers and cargo.