Broke government crushes Paralympians Rio dreams

By evelyn watta
Oct 20, 2015
  • Samuel Muchai(right) and his guide.(Photo by SNA File)

As they followed through the performances of team Kenya at the World athletics championships in Beijing where the country topped the medal table, the Paralympians hankered for their moment of glory.

The team led by World record holder in 1500 T11 Samuel Muchai, shouldered the burden of expectations with intensive and longer hours in training and the prospect of a fete and a date with President Uhuru Kenyatta upon return from the International Paralympic Committee, IPC, world athletics championships.

But the Government officials whom they hoped would be leading celebrations of their achievements next month, has brutally crushed their dreams hours to the start of the championships in Doha, Qatar.

“The PS said that the Government is broke so he cannot help you!” was the callous official response they got from the Ministry of Sports offices on Monday when they followed up on their Ksh.8 million budget they had put through in August, to facilitate travel and cover the accommodation of 19 athletes including guides and officials to Doha.

Unfortunately, the government is the sole funder of the Kenya Paralympics whose participation to the last edition of the IPC world athletics championships in France in 2013 was thwarted by lack of funding.

Missing Lyon two years ago hurt the runners including Abraham Tarbei, a contender in the T46 the sole gold medallist from the 2011 world championships in Australia, but at least there were no Paralympic tickets at stake.

Then Kenya sent a team of 11 who won gold, four silver and three bronze medals. The 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships are a vital qualification opportunity for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Kenyan runners had qualified for the championships at the Africa championships in Tunisia last March where they won four gold, four silver and three bronze medals.

“No Paralympian has qualified for Rio and we being a track and field nation this was an important event for us to compete, qualify and test ourselves before Rio,” said Agnes Oluoch the chairlady of the Kenya Paralympics Committee, KPC. 

“It is painful for Kenya to miss a world championship in Athletics. We celebrated and feted our abled athletes in Beijing just the other day. It is disappointing that we are treated like this. Like there is no value in our events,” she said dejectedly.

No Rio for Kenyan paralympians 

“We sent our budget even before we travelled to Congo for the All Africa Games. There was never an indication that we may not travel until last week when we pleaded to meet the PS and we were told that the Government is broke and they cannot support us,” added Oluoch, who was in June reinstated as the chair of the KPC by the Sports Tribunal, following a leadership tussle that had led to the suspension of the national body by the IPC. 

The KPC was hoping to bounce back from the turbulent year by qualifying athletes for Rio but are now facing the prospects of failing to send a team to the Paralympics games for the first time since 1972.

Kenya alongside other African teams boycotted the 1976 Olympics and Paralympics in Toronto.

Around 1,300 athletes from 100 countries will be in Doha for the IPC Athletics World Championships that begins on 21-31 October and is the ultimate stage for the athletes to prove themselves against the world’s best before the Paralympic Games next September.

National Olympics Committee of Kenya sympathised with the Kenya Paralympics Committee, which is an independent umbrella body that is charged with organising for qualification of their athletes and teams for the games.

“It is quite a disappointing development. The Government should tell the teams early enough that they can seek other options if any. We too at NOCK suffered a similar fate when the government refused to fund our team to the Youth Commonwealth games and we had to seek alternatives and reduce the team,” said Francis Paul, NOCK Secretary General.

“Our participation in Rio may be affected by all these missed qualifications,”he warned.

KPC is doubtful that their performances from Tunisia could be considered for Rio and are hoping that maybe some wild cards could save team Kenya. The team was meant to travel to Doha on Wednesday.