NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 23 – A team of 19 athletes and guides will depart Nairobi on September 1 for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil which are set to begin on September 7, just a fortnight after the curtains fell on the Olympic Games.
The team will be motivated by the performance of their able bodied colleagues who managed to pick a total of 13 medals from the Olympic Games, finishing top of the African table and 15th globally.
Speaking to Capital Sport, Kenya Paralympics Committee president Agnes Flora Oluoch said the team is well prepared especially after starting camp early and will be out to put a stellar performance in Rio.
“We want to thank the government because of the support they have given us and we managed to start preparations early. We have been in camp for the last month and all the athletes are looking in good shape. We saw what our able bodied colleagues managed to achieve and we want to do as well as them. Our minimum target is to get at least nine medals,” Oluoch said.
On top of sending seven track athletes, Kenya will for the first time send a para-rower to the games. Itaken Timoi will be rafting the waters for Kenya in Rio after getting a wild card from the International Paralympics Committee (IPC).
Also getting a wild card to the games is para-lifter Gabriel Magu and 1500m T12 athlete Nelly Nasimiyu.
The team will be led by London 2012 1500m gold medalist Samuel Muchai who will also double up in the 5,000m T11. Others include Henry Kirwa, Wilson Bii, Erick Sang and Nancy Chelagat who will also double up in the 5,000m and 1500m T11 as well as sprinter Henry Sugi who will participate in the 100 and 200m T12.
Kenya was initially set to send a squad of 28 athletes who had all attained the ‘A’ qualifying standards but the list was slashed down to 19 by the IPC.
“It was beyond us because the IPC told us there were very high standards of qualification and only the best of the best would get opportunities. We tried to complain to them by writing several e-mails but they stuck by their decision,” Oluoch said as she responded on the discontent from a section of the athletes who were left out of the squad.
“We explained it to them and they understood. In fact they have been training very well alongside the others who will be travelling,” she added.
The team received a boost of Sh130mn from the government which will go towards catering for transport and kitting costs. They also received an extra Sh5mn boost from mobile phone company Safaricom.
In London 2012, Kenya finished 40th overall with six medals, two each in gold, silver and bronze. Muchai and Henry Kirwa who won bronze in the 5,000m T12 are the only ones who will be going for a second Paralympics.