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We are short of depth, admits athletics coach Kirwa

(L-R) Geoffrey Kirui, Elijah Manangoi and Timothy Cheruiyot pose for a photo with one of the Team Kenya coaches. Photo/TIMOTHY OLOBULU

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 15- With the London IAAF World Championships concluded, Athletics Kenya (AK) head coach Julius Kirwa has admitted that more work needs to be done to increase Kenya’s scope and depth of athletes.

Speaking to Capital Sport early Tuesday morning after the team arrived from London, Kirwa expressed concern that the team lacks cover if most of the top athletes are absent either due to retirement or injury.

“If you look at our team, we are few and we need to do something. Now that we are back, we will meet with all the coaches in the country and analyze our performance from London then embark on a plan to get more athletes to back up those already there,” Kirwa said.

“If you look at the women’s 1500m, we have only one strong lady. We need to back up, same to 5000m. We have a problem. Even in the 10,000m if the three guys wake up one day and say they will not run, then we will be in a crisis,” the coach further explained.

Kenya finished the competition second overall in the rankings with 11 medals, 5 gold, 2 silver and 4 bronze, one place dip in performance compared to the previous championship held in Beijing, China in 2015 when the athletics power house finished top of the world for the first time.

-Eyebrow-raising in some of the races-

(L-R) Courtney Frerichs of the United States, silver, Emma Coburn of the United States, gold, and Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi of Kenya, bronze, pose with their medals for the Women’s 3000 metres Steeplechase during day nine of the 16th IAAF World Athletics Championships London 2017 at The London Stadium on August 12, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Kenya failed to win a single medal in the men’s 5000m with the only Kenyan in the race Cyrus Rutto finishing a disappointing 13th in the final. Worse was when one of the Kenyans, Davis Kiplang’at was lapped during the semi-finals.

In the 3000m steeplechase, a race considered to be the country’s stronghold, Kenya won only one medal each in both the men and women races. In the men’s race, Olympic Champion Conseslus Kipruto guarded Kenya’s pride by claiming the title.

However, Hyvin Kiyeng could not defend her title after she finished third behind USA’s Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs. More embarrassing was when Beatrice Chepkoech forgot to go past the water hurdle and had to go back to jump before joining the leading team again.

Evan Jagger, who won bronze in the men’s race, tweeted; “Stat of the year: America won more Steeplechase medals than Kenya at the 2017 World Championships. Incredible.”

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Coach Kirwa has admitted that there is some concern but says all issues will be addressed as Kenya seeks to strengthen its hold of the events it is traditionally known to dominate.

“I agree with you there is a problem. We had a lady in the race; she was good, but she was overwhelmed. I talked to her and told her not to go off early but wait instead, she decided to run. We are worried we don’t know what happened. Someone missing steeplechase barrier; it was something up to now I haven’t understood what happened,” the tactician added.

-Kirwa contended-

Team Kenya coach Julius Kirwa at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport departing for London ahead of the IAAF World Championships that gets underway from August 4-13.Photo/RAYMOND MAKHAYA

But despite the few hiccups that curtailed the team’s perfect rush for medals, Kirwa was contended with the medal haul and says the athletes gave their best to ensure Kenya scooped more medals than any African country.

“I think this is the toughest championship we have ever been to and to get such kind of performance is fantastic. People might say we didn’t do well but compare us with USA who participated in more events than us. We are better,” the coach added.

His sentiments were echoed by his assistant Bernard Ouma who said the mistakes done by the athletes will only spur them to do better and should not be used as a yardstick to measure their success in the championship.

“The achievement was satisfactory and we are pleased. We did our best as per the strategies. Mistakes are bound to happen and the mistakes are the challenges that define the winners and losers. We will learn from them,” he noted.

The coaching team will now shift their attention to prepare for 2018 Commonwealth Games which will be held in Gold Coast, Australia.

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