Ngisirei tips Kenya to bounce back after relinquishing junior title
National athletics Under-20 head coach Robert Ngisirei knows too well the reasons behind the junior team’s relinquishing of the overall title at the recently concluded world Under 20 Championships in Cali, Colombia.
Ngisirei bemoaned that many athletes were unable to train effectively due to the rush to obtain their travel documents whereas some who had been selected to the team were unable to travel and had to be replaced.
Ngisirei further decried belated national trials, short residential camp, poor cuisine, fatigue and inexperience for hampering the team’s performance at the competition as the other reasons behind the poor show.
Kenya finished fourth on the medal standings in Cali with 10 medals (three gold, three silver and four bronze), subsequently letting go the title they have held for the last four years.
Ngisirei said the proximity of the national trials to the championships left them with little time to sharpen the juniors within the residential camp.
“Between the national trials and the World Under 20, we had around 18 days to train. Out of these days, 10 were spent by the athletes trying to secure their travel documents and so we only had eight days.
My appeal to Athletics Kenya (AK) is for the national trials to be held at least a month before a major championship so there is more time to train and work on travel documents,” Ngisirei said.
“There were a number who were able to train unhindered because they had already secured theirs. However, there were others who often had to spend the whole day outside of the residential camp, trying to secure their travel documents. This indeed affected their preparations. That is why I am appealing for longer residential camps, not only for World Under 20, but also major assignments. This is to factor in the challenges associated with travel documentations,” the head coach said.
Regarding cuisine, Ngisirei said some of the athletes struggled to adapt to the South American food at their hotel in Santiago de Cali.
“It was a problem especially among the male athletes. They struggled to adapt to the food and even when we looked for something more familiar like rice, it was not easily available.
Maybe in the future, we need to liaise with organisers and hotels so that the cuisine offered to athletes is something they are more familiar with,” he said.
Ngisirei added: “Many of our youngsters had also never travelled outside, especially on a long journey such as this. The change of weather took a toll on some of them and couldn’t perform as well as expected. We would need in the future to make early travel arrangements so we arrive on time and can adapt as quickly as possible.”
In light of these challenges, the tactician believes the lads did well.
Ethiopia was the best performing African country, finishing third on the medal table with 12 medals (six gold, five silver and one bronze).
Kenya’s longstanding arch-rivals snatched the men’s 800m and 3000m steeplechase title from their Eastern African neighbours.
Ngisirei, however, believes most of Team Kenya have bright futures ahead of them, if only they get more exposure.
“If you look at most of the Ethiopian runners in that team, they are experienced athletes who are mostly based in Europe. In fact, only a few of them returned home. On the contrary, what we had was a very young team most of who are still in school and have never run a lot of races outside. We need to expose them to many, such competitions so they gain the confidence of competing on the international stage,” he said.
The coach, also a member of AK’s youth development subcommittee, added they will be convening soon to develop a roadmap for preparing the youngsters for the Paris Olympics.
“Most of them are not yet 20-year-olds so we are thinking that if we can nurture them between now and 2024, several of them can make the Olympics. We have had training camps for junior athletes across the country for two years and we hope the same can continue next year. We will be using these camps to continue sharpening them and thankfully, the school calendar will revert to normal,” he said.