Athletics Kenya president Jack Tuwei has called on coaches and local athletes to change the approach they use in preparing for continental and international races so as to counter the surging competition from other countries.
Kenya is known for her dominance in middle and long distance races with Ethiopia their main competitors, but that has recently come under serious threat with countries like Uganda producing some impressive performances. Tuwei was speaking after returning from Algeria where he had accompanied Team Kenya to the fifth edition of the Africa Cross-Country Championship.
The team won eight gold medals, three individual, four team trophies and the overall trophy that they successfully defended. “I am very excited. The athletes kept their promise and worked as a team and that’s how Kenya won all team gold medals. However, we have to change our approach as we prepare for these competitions.
We need to move away from preparing with our traditional opposition in mind as we have new competitors, especially Ugandans,” said Tuwei. Tuwei was especially impressed by the performance of the junior women’s team that won the team gold, which has been elusive for Kenya over the years, despite missing out on gold and silver in Algeria.
Hellen Ekalale won bronze in the 6km event. “Chlef (the host city) had one of the toughest courses I have seen in the recent past and the young women did extremely well,” added Tuwei. His sentiments were echoed by team coach John Kimetto who said the muddy circuit gave the youngsters a hard time.
Going into other competitions, Kimetto has insisted on the need for strategic planning that will see athletes train hard and have mental strength to handle serious competition. “These athletes are young and we are focused on guiding them through their growth. It was the first time to represent the country for some of them and they did well,” said Kimetto.
Gold medallist Alfred Barkach, basking in the glory of his maiden gold, drew inspiration from Geoffrey Kamworor’s triumph in the World Cross-Country Championship in Kampala, Uganda last year.
“I was determined to win gold for Kenya. Despite trailing two Ugandans in the leading pack, I stayed calm as I knew my tactics would carry the day. My focus now shifts to training for the Diamond Leagues,” said Barkach.