World Under 20 team coach believes Kenyan side can improve on next month’s championships

Friday, July 23rd, 2021 00:00 |
World Under 20 Athletics Championships competitions director Giovani Cardona (left) explains a point to WU20 Local Organising Committee (LOC) chairman Jackson Tuwei (centre) and other LOC members at Kasarani Sports Complex yesterday during an inspection of the facilities. Photo/PD/EDWIN OTIENO

National World Under-20 head coach Robert Ngisirei believes that the squad at his disposal has what it takes to finish top of the medal table when the event is held in Nairobi next month, just as they did at the 2018 World Under 20 Championships in Tampere, Finland where they bagged 11 medals-six gold, four silver and one bronze.

“I have done a couple of sessions with the team to tone their muscles ahead of the international assignment.

I can confirm that the team is very strong and the athletes proved that by clocking good times during their trials at Kasarani,” a confident Ngisirei told People sport on phone from Moi International Sport Centre Kasarani.

Ngisirei said laxity is not an option for them since other countries will be desperate to claim Kenya’s crown, attained during the last edition in 2018 in Tampere, Finland.

“Everything is working out as planned at the moment. The athletes are responding well to

training in all the categories in which we will be competing in, including the field events.

Every race is hard including those in which we have traditionally dominated and so we cannot rest easy in our training,” Ngisirei added.

Ngisirei, who was the coach in Cali, Colombia where Kenya won the overall title in 2015, is optimistic that the team can improve on their 2015 and 2017 feat where they won 15 medals.

“Winning in such events, as a coach, is pure joy. You laugh all the way home.

But when you lose, there will be little to talk about at the technical level and contingent as a whole,” he said.

One of the aspects the technical bench is paying keen attention to at the moment is speed work for the athletes in all races.

“Our rivals, especially Uganda and Ethiopia, are no pushovers. So we want these lads to improve on their respective times such that they will be at peak fitness by August when the championship begins,” Ngisirei said.

The team is currently in a bubble residential training camp at Moi Stadium, Kasarani during which they have to undergo regular Covid-19 tests and avoid contact with the outside world as much as possible.

The coach praised the youngsters for their bravery and discipline amid a challenging period occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic, which has turned many lives upside down.

“It did not only start now but during the trials when we underwent Covid tests on four consecutive days.

The lads are not shocked by the regularity of these tests rather have become accustomed to them. Most of them say they are not feeling any discomfort,” he said.

The showpiece set to be held behind closed doors, the juniors are set to miss out on the capacity crowd witnessed by their predecessors during the World Under-18 Championships at the same venue.

Nonetheless, Ngisirei is confident Team Kenya are prepared to deliver the medals without fans presence.

“This will not be an issue for us because an athlete knows they have to bring out their best performance whether there will be fans or not.

Furthermore, they know that Kenyans will be glued on their televisions throughout the championships and so they will not want to let them down,” Ngisirei said.

So far, close to 128 countries have confirmed participation in the event, which will be exactly a week after the Tokyo Olympics.

Last week Cabinet secretary for sports Amina Mohamed announced that there will be no fans allowed at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani in Nairobi during the World Athletics Under-20 Championships.

According to Amina the world is undergoing tough times currently due to the coronavirus pandemic and unless the World Athletics announces otherwise, there will be no spectators.

“We are not going to allow any fan at the stadium because we are still in the middle of a pandemic,” said Amina

She added that most of the global events are being held without spectators free including the upcoming Olympic Games which begins today in Tokyo, Japan.

“We have seen most of the events held across the country happening at empty stadiums except for countries that have vaccinated up to 50 per cent of the population.

The organisers, athletes and the technical team are the only people who will access the stadium and must undergo the mandatory tests,” she said.

Those who will be allowed to access the stadium will be tested every day. She added that the country was fully ready to host the global event with final touches being done at the media centre and other areas.

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