NAIROBI, Kenya, May 27 – Middle distance athletics coach Bernard Ouma has disclosed that athletes have been mentally drained and going through psychological challenges from the effects of the lockdown initiated by the government to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The situation has been further worsened with many events either cancelled or postponed, denying them a chance of earning income and seeing them dip into a struggle, especially those who were not earning from big races before.
“Psychologically, many are going through mental disruptions because of the lack of the norm. They are used to a routine and we have tried to advise them to take it as a normal and use the time to evaluate themselves. In life, not all the time things will be smooth. This is one of the hurdles you have to jump over and it is human,” the tactician who runs the Rongai Athletics Club stated.
He added; “As a coach, this is a time that you need to be very close to your athletes and make them feel normal. They are human as well and we need to help them avoid unnecessary extreme mental problems.”
He has admitted it has been a tough period for the sports community but reiterates he is positive everyone will bounce back stronger from the disruptions caused by the virus which has brought the wheels of the world to a halt.
Ouma led five of his athletes to their first track session since disruption of training on Tuesday afternoon as he prepares them for the Maurie Plant Memorial Race, a virtual competition between Kenyan and Norwegian athletes scheduled for June 11.
The excitement and relief was written all over the coach’s face as he blew his whistle to a welcoming echo at the Nyayo National Stadium and constantly clicked on his stop watch, face mask in tow, as he started the process of peeling off the rust from his athletes.
“It feels so nice to be out and training. We were having a feeling like we were in a cage then suddenly we have been let loose. It is a happy feeling to be on the track after a long time being indoors with minimal activities,” he states.
Ouma’s athlete, World Champion Timothy Cheruiyot will team up with fellow metric mile speedstar and Commonwealth Champion Elijah Manangoi as well as 800m runner Edwin Meli to compete against the Ingebrigtsen brothers; Jakob, Filip and Henrik in a virtual race.
Team Cheruiyot will compete at the Nyayo National Stadium while Team Ingebrigtsen will be in Oslo.
“It is a great way to get us back in the mood. This is just a fun race with no monetary attachment to it but one to show the athletics world that we can come back to life. This will also be a race to entertain the fans and give them something to smile about,” Ouma explained.
After the race, Ouma will prepare his athletes for the new calendar season released by World Athletics. Most of his athletes, led by Manangoi and Cheruiyot will start their season in Monaco on August 14.
“This will be a salvage of the would-be season. Anyone who will be running well in August going on is the one who is training now and we are part of that bandwagon trying to get in shape and perform well for the make-up season,” added Ouma.
He also pointed out he expects a season of shocks, where he believes good athletes will struggle while those not seen as strong will take up the challenge and do well.