Kenya hosts the world junior athletics championships in just over a year, hoping to showcase its future stars and the potential the country has to stage international athletics competitions.
Athletes are training hard, but preparations for the event have stalled amid constructions delays and the government’s failure to deliver promised upgrades to sports facilities including new stadiums.
“Our athletes have suffered a lot,” said Elias Kiptum Mahindi, a two-time winner of the Linz marathon in Austria, who has trained in the high-altitude town of Iten, the cradle of Kenyan champions, for the past decade.
Iten, 2,400 metres (7,874 feet) above sea level, has been the training site for Olympic medal winners including David Rudisha, the former world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang, and current women’s marathon record holder Mary Keitany.
“The athletes really like the serenity Iten provides,” Mahindi said. “The climate and the conditions here are very good.”
But ambitious plans to improve facilities have resulted in running tracks being closed for months and no sign of them reopening.
“We are urging the national government and those responsible to help us,” Mahindi said.
When Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was first elected in 2013, he listed nine stadiums to be built or refurbished.
They included the famous Kamariny stadium in Iten, and the two big stadiums in Eldoret and Kapsabet, both named after Kenya’s legendary athlete Kipchoge Keino.
Six years later, none of the stadiums are ready.