By Omar Mohammed
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s athletics authority on Wednesday ordered the closure of training camps and clubs due to the coronavirus outbreak, a move that threatens the ability of the country’s athletes to prepare for the Olympic Games which are scheduled to begin in July.
Athletics Kenya’s announcement follows last week’s edict to bar athletes from traveling to international events.
“All athletics training camps and clubs should remain closed until further notice,” the body said in a statement. “Athletes are advised to continue training individually and coaches encouraged to continue monitoring individual athletes.”
Sporting events around the world are being suspended or canceled entirely as countries scramble to contain the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 196,000 people and led to more than 7,800 deaths.
Bernard Ouma, who coaches 1,500m world champion Timothy Cheruiyot, told Reuters that they had moved to minimize group training before the announcement on Wednesday.
“We decided to break the camp, so guys are training by themselves. But I am monitoring the work,” said Ouma, who runs Rongai Athletics Club, located on the outskirts of Nairobi, and also coaches Elijah Manangoi, the 2017 1,500m world champion.
There are growing concerns the outbreak may hit the Tokyo Olympics. Japan on Wednesday said it was not making any preparations to postpone the Games, insisting it plans to host the event as scheduled despite the global spread of the virus.
“Hopefully, the Olympics will be there, might not be there as well. But we are preparing individually, my job is to monitor what’s going on,” said Ouma.
“It’s tough for everyone, we are in difficult times,” he added. “We don’t turn out for the Olympics (without being ready) and we are not in good shape… everyone is fighting the dilemma (of) what will happen tomorrow.”
Athletics Kenya said on Wednesday it was halting physical meetings for the next month and urged athletes who had traveled outside the country over the last two weeks to self-quarantine.
The Africa Cross Country Championships scheduled for April 8 in Togo have also been postponed with no new date set.
(Reporting by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Christian Radnedge)