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Kenya urged to support young athletes to stem migration

17 August 2016, 15:24

Nairobi (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan coach who nurtured and supported Ruth Jebet, who won the Rio Olympic women' s 3,000m steeplechase title for her adopted country of Bahrain on Monday, said Kenya should support budding athletes to stem athletes' migration to richer states.

Barnaba Korir, who currently serves as the Head of Youth Programs at Athletics Kenya (AK), said Tuesday Kenyans do not understand the predicament the athletes undergo which informs their changing of nationality to other countries.

"Before people criticize Jebet, they need to ask themselves what is it they did for her to make her reach the point she attained, and also what they would have done for her had she remained around," Korir said during an interview with Xinhua in Nairobi.

The 19-year old Kenyan-born produced an astonishing piece of front-running to win Bahrains first Olympic gold when she claimed the women' s 3,000m steeplechase in a time of 8:59.75, missing out on the world record by less than a second.

Reigning world champion, Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi of Kenya took silver in 9:07.12, with American Emma Coburn claiming bronze in 9:07.63.

Jebet, who transferred her allegiance to Bahrain from her native Kenya in February 2013 after completing high school in Nairobi, is also a former world junior champion and the second-fastest woman ever and only the second to run the event in less than nine minutes.

"While not encouraging Kenyans to change nationality, it is time to do some soul-searching and come to the root of the matter and address the cause of the problem that makes Kenyan runners to adopt foreign citizenship," Korir said.

He said while Jebet was still living in Kenya, nobody cared to attend to her needs, especially that she came from a poor background.

"When her mother was ailing from cancer, I footed her hospital bills, and when she died, it was me who ensured she got a decent burial. One only needs to go to Jebet' s home to understand what I am talking about," he told Xinhua.

"I supported Jebet materially and morally to make her become what she has turned out to be presently. Many are the times she would go without meals and lack training shoes until I took over. Let us respect her choice and let her be," Korir said.

Korir said the government should offer scholarships to the young athletes so that they can have something to fall back on after they are through with their running careers.

About 30 former Kenyans are running for other nations during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, which has reduced most races to 'Kenyan-versus-former-Kenyan' affair, with Turkey and Bahrain accounting for the highest numbers.

- Xinhua


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