Nock officials grilled as athletes recount their Rio horror

Margaret Nyairera Wambui, the bronze medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games join traditional dancers in ...
Margaret Nyairera Wambui, the bronze medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games join traditional dancers in a jig at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) upon arrival in the country on August 26, 2016. Photo/Stafford Ondego/

The last group of returning members of Team Kenya to the Rio 2016 Olympics narrated the horrors they went through at the hands of National Olympics Committee-Kenya (Nock) officials after arriving home drained on Friday night.

They were there to witness two of their handlers, Chef-de-Mission, Stephen arap Soi and his deputy, James Chacha, arrested at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) with the duo and Nock secretary, Francis K Paul who was taken into custody earlier, grilled at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters on Saturday morning.

A police raid uncovered cartons of official team kit from sponsors Nike that is at the centre of the scandal where Nock officials are also accused of mismanaging the team and accrediting an inordinate number of joy riders to the Olympics, including close family members at the expense of deserving aides to the competitors.

At JKIA, an isolated group of traditional dancers swirled the international arrival lounge at 10pm local time (+3GMT) on Friday as relatives braved the night’s cold to receive their kin who finally got home after being stranded in Rio where they were forced to spend the night in a crime infested shanty town.

Team Kenya’s Team Captain and Cherangany MP, Wesley Kipchumba Korir, who opted to remain behind with the last batch of the competitors wasted little time in telling the assembled reporters of the tribulations they went through under the bungling officials who forced the Government to disband Nock on Thursday.

“There was so much disorganization. These guys (Nock officials) are so full of themselves but this time we felt enough was enough. There was so much emotional distress within the camp built up right from the day we left the country and for every day we spent in Rio,” the 33-year-old told Citizen Digital.

Korir revealed that it took Nock officials more than two hours to locate the key to his room in Brazil when he arrived for the men’s marathon before he was then a sorry victim of an embarrassing water mix-up that saw him and New York champion, Stanley Biwott, fail to finish their race.

“They could not even man a water point. I even threw up after hopping out of the race,” he recounted.

The father of three cited the dictatorial leadership of Chef-de-Mission, Soi as the root of all the mess, saying that he has long been a feared man – even by his own deputy, Chacha.

He claimed that there was no structured communication channel among the team’s handlers with Soi demanding to control everything.

Shockingly, such cases as missing kits, uncoordinated travel arrangements and second-rate accommodation have been the norm in past editions of the Games, with Soi roundly condemned for the London 2012 fiasco where he was the Team Kenya CEO.

“I was dressed in oversize kit and it was so shameful that I had to take it upon myself to confront Nike officials on the issue. But these things have always existed; so much that athletes have come to terms with living this kind of a life. Even Paul Tergat went through this,” the parliamentarian who was debuting for his nation in international competition lamented.

Nock officials have long used wild card selection to silence anyone who dared question their rule, with the legislator now calling for its abolition as the first move towards taming its leadership.

While appreciating that the Government’s move to disband Nock, Korir also called for Sports Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Hassan Wario, to also take responsibility for the mess that has stolen the shine from Kenya’s best ever performance at an Olympics where the nation topped the African charts and finished 15th overall with six gold, six silver and a bronze.

“Sending away Nock and sparing Wario is like removing the speck off the eye and leaving a log in it. I texted Wario more than once, telling him we had been left in a town with no taxi, terrifying gunshots and a swarm of mosquitoes for company.

“He never replied and there is inexcusable. He was fully aware that we were living in a pathetic situation,” he admonished saying they were coldly advised to stay indoors and no further help came around.

Margaret Nyairera Wambui who pocketed bronze in a personal best of 1:56.89 in the women 800m was also caught up in the shambles, and although she had no harsh words for her caretakers, her mother Anna Wambui was unimpressed.

“I felt terrible when she told me that she was sleeping in a dangerous street; it was just not fair. She went to represent the country and did us proud by winning bronze. Why would someone who is supposed to take care of my daughter seek shelter in fancy places and leave her in that kind of danger?” She posed.

-Not worthy-

Catherine Ndereba is hugged by husband Antony Muhia upon arrival in the country from Rio Games at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on August 26, 2016. Photo/Stafford Ondego/
Catherine Ndereba is embraced by husband Antony Muhia upon arrival in the country from Rio Games at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on August 26, 2016. Photo/Stafford Ondego/

Boxer Peter Mungai Warui, who stunned China’s Lyu Bin in Rio Ring to storm quarters, explained things turned sour after being moved out of the Olympic Village.

“The food, accommodation and the environment was not worthy of Team Kenya. There was no security and we had to take safety measures to remain unharmed,” Mungai recounted.

Two-time world champion, Catherine Ndereba, who was part of the Nock Steering Committee for Rio 2016, admitted the team would have brought home more medals had they been in a better psychological condition.

The two-time Olympics silver medallist and twice world women marathon champion was also subjected to slapstick treatment that mocked her standing as ‘The Great’ when she arrived in Rio and was forced to share a room outside the Village with three coaches.

One of them, sprints trainer, John Anzrah, landed in trouble when he borrowed men 800m runner, Ferguson Rotich’s accreditation card to get a free meal in the dining hall only for Doping Control Officers (DCOs) to pounce on him asking for an out-of-competition urine sample.

He was expelled on charges of impersonation when he signed a form in a bid to stall the DCOs as a fellow coach rushed to get Rotich to clear up the mix-up, a scandal that the athlete said affected his performance after finishing fifth in the men 800m final.

The arrested Nock officials are expected in court on Monday to answer charges that will be preferred against them by the State as investigations ordered by President Uhuru Kenyatta into the Rio 2016 fiasco continue.

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Story By Matthews Mutai
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