CAA working hard to cushion African athletes from Covid- 19: Hamad
- The CAA has had to postpone two continental championships and they’re still working with World Athletics and Athletics Kenya to find new dates for the World U20 Championships in Nairobi.
- Hamad says the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the sport in Africa.
While half of the world is starting to ease their way out of lockdown, most countries in Africa are still awaiting the green light from their governments to resume normal day-to-day activities. For thousands of athletes on the continent, that means being able to return to training facilities and competitions.
Hamad Kalkaba Malboum, president of the African Athletics Confederation (CAA), says the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the sport in Africa.
“During this pandemic, like the rest of the world, all activities were stopped under country restrictions,” he says. “The only exception was Togo, where our AADC (African Area Development Centres) athletes have been able to keep on training as they were all living inside the centre at the Kégué National Stadium.
“In some countries, such as Mauritius, athletes were able to resume training on 1 July. There are several expatriate athletes across our various training centres, but they’ve been able to go back home before returning in September to resume training when the athletics season restarts.
“In other countries, most athletes have been able to train at home, and some with their personal coach. But our main advice to all member federations was to respect the decisions of their governments to protect their health.”
In practical terms, it has meant that the large groups of elite endurance athletes in Kenya and Ethiopia, for example, have been unable to operate as normal. Instead of training as a big squad, most have had to find ways of working in much smaller groups. That’s just the elite end of the sport, too; similar challenges filter right down to the grassroots level.
And it’s not just training arrangements that have been affected. As has been the case in many other countries around the world, competitions have been cancelled and earning opportunities for athletes have been significantly reduced.
The CAA has had to postpone two continental championships and they’re still working with World Athletics and Athletics Kenya to find new dates for the World U20 Championships in Nairobi.
“We spoke to the regional presidents to find out what was happening in each area, and they informed us that all competitions have unfortunately been suspended,” said Kalkaba Malboum. “In consultation and in agreement with the host countries, we have also rescheduled our major competitions. We had two continental championships planned for 2020: the African Cross Country Championships in Lome, Togo, and the African Championships in Algiers. We’re now looking to host the African Cross Country Championships in March 2021 and the African Championships in June 2021, so that performances can count towards Olympic qualifying. But it all depends on whether the situation improves.”
The Kip Keino Classic, a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting, is set to take place in Nairobi on 26 September, and for many of the athletes involved it may be their only competition of 2020. But after a challenging start to the year, it will also offer a glimmer of hope for the African athletes who have one eye on qualifying for the Olympic Games next year.
“In 2021 the main focus for our top athletes will be on preparing and qualifying for the Olympics, although at this moment the calendar for next year is looking quite poor,” says Kalkaba Malboum. “In recent weeks we’ve seen athletes in Europe return to competitions and training facilities, so hopefully it won’t be long before governments in Africa make similar decisions that will allow our athletes to do the same.”
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