NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 28 – Kenyan athletes who have been hard hit after the novel coronavirus stopped world sports have a reason to smile after World Athletics announced a fund of Sh53.6mn (US$500,000) that will go towards supporting athletes at this difficult period.
The fund will be from International Athletics Foundation (IAF), as more world bodies dive in to aid sportsmen whose income has been gravely affected with the cancellation of events, according to President Seb Coe, who also chairs the foundation.
Coe will chair an expert multi-regional working group to assess the applications for assistance, which will be submitted through World Athletics’ six Area Associations.
Olympic champion and 1500m world record-holder Hicham El Guerrouj, Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi (representing the WA Athletes’ Commission), WA Executive Board members Sunil Sabharwal (Audit Committee) and Abby Hoffman, WA Council members Adille Sumariwalla, Beatrice Ayikoru and Willie Banks, IAF Executive Committee member and former WA treasurer Jose Maria Odriozola and Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines President Keith Joseph will be part of the working group.
“I am in constant contact with athletes around the world and I know that many are experiencing financial hardship as a consequence of the shutdown of most international sports competition in the last two months,” Coe said in a statement.
He added; “Our professional athletes rely on prize money as part of their income and we’re mindful that our competition season, on both the track and road, is being severely impacted by the pandemic. We are hopeful that we will be able to stage at least some competition later this year.”
The working group will meet this week to establish a process for awarding and distributing grants to individual athletes and to look at other ways to raise additional monies for the fund.
El Guerrouj said: “The pandemic is causing economic pain to people from all parts of society, including athletes, and this is a time when we must come together as a global community to help each other.”
A huge section of Kenyan athletes have been greatly hit with a good percentage of the track season as well as road races being cancelled or postponed as the world continues to grapple to contain the virus.
Last week, Athletics Kenya boss Lt. Gen (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei said they were also in talks with the government to find a way of cushioning athletes at this time when they have lost income.
“We are looking at how we can support our athletes, but most importantly, we are looking at the most vulnerable groups. There are a good number who are employed by our government through either the Police, Prisons or Defense Forces, but there also remains a good number who solely depend on athletics,” Tuwei stated.
In a previous interview, athletics coach Bernard Ouma stated that athletes are now ‘relying on reserves’ to keep afloat with money lost through appearance fees, winning allowances and time bonuses.
Also, most of the upcoming athletes who have previously depended on income from pace setting races both on track and the field have found themselves in limbo with no income flowing in.
The London and Boston Marathons have already been postponed while the track season has been left shredded with the Diamond League races in Doha, Stockholm, China, Rome, Rabat, Eugene and Paris all standing cancelled.
The grand Olympic Games have also been postponed to 2021.