Top Kenyans athletes threaten to boycott Olympics trials

AK Championship

Simon Koech (871) leads the pack in 3000m Steeplechase finals during Athletics Kenya National Championship on May 22, 2024 at Ulinzi Sports Complex.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The trials were initially programmed to take place at the Nyayo National Stadium.
  • One sprinter said the Nyayo Stadium track offered runners an excellent opportunity to qualify.

Against the backdrop of a looming national trials for the Paris Olympic Games boycott by athletes, Athletics Kenya has insisted that the selection process will be held at a World Athletics-certified venue.

Athletes, who sought anonymity, vowed not to attend the trials that are scheduled for June 14 to 15 if they are held at the Ulinzi Sports Complex. 

Reacting to the athletes’ sentiments, AK President Jack Tuwei said he would not allow the trials to be held at a venue whose track has not been approved by Word Athletics.

Tuwei said he would strive to ensure that all athletes were given the opportunity to try and qualify for the Olympics. 

Closed for renovations

Tuwei spoke on Wednesday during the last day of the National Athletics Championships at the Ulinzi Sports Complex.

Athletics trials for Paris Olympics Games were initially programmed to take place at the Nyayo National Stadium but the Ministry of Sports has since closed the venue, forcing AK to consider holding the event at Ulinzi Sports Complex whose running track does not meet WA certification.

The Nyayo Stadium and the Moi International Sports Centre (MISC), Kasarani that are the only venues approved by World Athletics were earmarked by for major overhaul in readiness for the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations. 

MISC is in fact closed for renovations while Nyayo Stadium is partially open for athletes to use for training only.

Olympics standards

Nyayo is also one of the venues for this year’s African Nations Championships (Chan) in September. While launching the architectural designs for the venues last year, Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba promised that one of the facilities would be available for the national trials.

“Even though I have attained the Paris Olympics standards I will not attend in solidarity with those who would like to strive and get the standards at the trials,” said one of the athletes who participated in the recent National Championships at the Ulinzi Sports Complex.

“These are sentiments shared by all the athletes because they have missed a great opportunity to qualify for Paris Olympics with the National Athletics Championships being held at Ulinzi Sports Complex," said the athlete. 

One of the country’s top sprinters said that Nyayo Stadium track was fast and offered runners an excellent opportunity to qualify for the Paris Games.

Aggrieved athletes

The athlete singled out the 400m athlete Zablon Ekwam and 400m hurdles athlete Wiseman Were who attained the Paris Olympics qualifying standards during the Kip Keino Classic at Nyayo on April 20.

"We shouldn't allow for another boycott by athletes following what happened before the African Games trials," said another middle-distance athlete. 

During trials for the African Games, aggrieved athletes staged a sit-in demanding for more spots in the continental affair.

AK had been given 35 slots. Namwamba intervened leading to the slots being increased to 52.