How Covid-19 put dreams on hold at Torongo Camp


How Covid-19 put dreams on hold at Torongo Camp
Agnes Jebet of the Torongo Athletics Camp. (PHOTO/Gilbert Kiprotich)

In Summary

  • As the 2020 season kicked off everything seemed normal for athletes from the Torongo Athletics Camp before the coronavirus pandemic struck, putting a pause on their livelihoods as they knew it
  • The camp that is located in Baringo County is a home to budding athletes hailing from the region while others come from the neighbouring Laikipia and Elgeyo Marakwet counties

As the 2020 season kicked off everything seemed normal for athletes from the Torongo Athletics Camp before the coronavirus pandemic struck, putting a pause on their livelihoods as they knew it.

The camp that is located in Baringo County is a home to budding athletes hailing from the region while others come from the neighbouring Laikipia and Elgeyo Marakwet counties.

While the measure of any camp’s success may not be limited to the number of athletes it channels to the national team, it is the wish and of any other coach to have as many athletes in the national team as possible.

Well, this was slowly unraveling for athletes at Torongo at the start of the year when the camp produced a record seven athletes in the Kenyan team for the Africa Cross Country Championships that was due to be held in Lome, Togo on April 8.

At the National Cross-Country Championships which also doubled as trials, Gedion Rono won the Under-18 (6km) race for boys as Naomi Kemboi won the corresponding 5km for girls thus bagging tickets to Togo.

Also joining them were Marion Cheruiyot and Ismael Kirui.

In the Under-20 (8km) boys, Shadrack Kipchirchir and Emmanuel Kiplagat finished third and fourth respectively to also make the team.

Elsewhere, Agnes Jebet also made the cut in the Under-20 (6km) girls race after placing third.

However, as fate would have it, the competition would be postponed owing to the spread of the virus and the subsequent cross-border restrictions.

With the continental event now hanging in the balance due to the already piled-up calendar in 2021, it may as well be a distant possibility for the championship to be held altogether.

According to head coach Barnaba Kitilit, the new developments had detrimental effects on his athletes.

“It was a very big blow for them, in fact most of them could not stop crying when they found out that the competition would not be happening. Because most of our coaches here are teachers, we managed to conduct counselling sessions for them and they are now okay,” said Kitilit.

Jebet, who placed fourth at the 2018 Africa Cross Country in Chlef, Algeria regretted the negative impacts of the virus that has brought global sporting activities on its knees.

“Having already qualified for the event (Africa Cross) I was now targeting to win a gold medal. I was also hoping to represent Kenya at the World Under-20 championships,” said Jebet who is a 5000m athlete and student at Kapkenda Girls High School.

Kitilit revealed that the camp has over 100 athletes with more than half of them including African Games 1500m Qualyne Kiprop and African Games 5000m bronze medalist residing in the camp full time while others are mostly junior athletes who train over the holiday.

Being one of the 19 camps selected by Athletics Kenya (AK) to host prospective athletes for the World Under-20, some 35 athletes on Friday received foodstuffs to cushion them.

Kitilit, who also doubles as AK Baringo County chairman hailed the programme where each athlete also received a token of Sh3000.

“Since I started coaching in 1983, I have never seen something like this, where junior athletes are being catered for by the federation. I am assuring Kenyans that these kids will do wonders in the near future,” said

“I am very happy today sine AK has remembered us and brought us some foodstuffs. This will really help us even as we continue training individually,” said Jebet.

AK Youth and Development Sub Committee chairman Barnaba Korir explained that the programme is aimed at 1400 athletes who had been selected to be trained in the 19 camps during the December and April holidays.

The new dates for the World Under-20 Championships which was set for Nairobi on July 7-12 have not been released.

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Story By Gilbert Kiprotich
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