Sprinters and middle-distance are reeling from the lack of access to tartan following the recent indefinite closure of Mandela National Stadium (MNS) in Namboole.
Namboole Stadium was last week completely sealed off by authorities after it started housing individuals who are undergoing a mandatory quarantine or isolation in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, before July 23 when the facility was shut, a small group of elite runners had secured special permission from MNS CEO Jamil Sewanyana in preparation for the resumption of the global athletics calendar.
They were permitted on grounds that they would only use the stadium track particularly for speed work and by virtue of being a small group of usually 10 people a session, social distancing was a guarantee. But as the races draw close, they are suffering a major logistical set-back. “At the level where we are,” world 800m champion Halimah Nakaayi told this paper, “We need to train in a facility with tartan like Namboole,” she said.
Team No Sleep
Nakaayi is scheduled for the 1000m race at the Monaco Diamond League at the Stade Louis II in France on August 14. She often trains with her partner-turned-sister Winnie Nanyondo in the company of other middle-distance runners Africa 1500m bronze medallist Ronald Musagala and Abu Mayanja. Their group is code-named ‘Team No Sleep’.
On July 18, they were also joined by Stephen Kissa and world 10000m champion Joshua Cheptegei and the latter conducted a time trial in the company of his coach Addy Ruiter as a test before he aims to break the 5000m WR in Monaco in a fortnight.
“As we get closer to races, we need to intensify some things using the track but it is not possible at the moment,” noted Nakaayi.
“We are still grateful to Mr Sewanyana for helping us. This (Namboole closure) is a situation that we understand and we can only work with other options available,” she added.
The group has opted to find other accessible facilities and spaces to keep training but without the tartan, a thorough assessment of the runners’ speed progress remains a tall order.
Meanwhile, World Athletics is exploring alternative dates for the World Cross-country Championships which are set to be held in Bathurst, Australian on March 20, 2021.
According to a recent statement by the global body, the event whose title is held by Joshua Cheptegei could be pushed further because of Covid-19 disruptions. “The disruption caused by the global pandemic has made it more difficult to schedule international events over the next two years but we want to give as much certainty as we can to our athletes, Member Federations, host cities and partners,” said World Athletics president Sebastian Coe.
Cheptegei won the 10km title at last year’s World Cross-country edition in Aarhus, Denmark and now holds the 5000m DL title, the 5km WR and the long-distance Commonwealth double.
However, World Athletics announced the new dates of World U20 Championships to be held in Nairobi, Kenya from August 17-22, 2021, a week after the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“The World Race Walking Team Championships have been rescheduled for April 23-24, 2022 in Minsk, Belarus,” the statement further read.
The World Half-Marathon Championships Yangzhou 2022 have been moved one week back, from March 20-27.
MAJOR MEDALS IN 2019
WORLD X-CTRY - DENMARK
Gold: Joshua Cheptegei (10km)
Silver: Jacob Kiplimo (10km)
Bronze: Oscar Chelimo (8km)
Gold: Senior Men
Silver: Junior Men
Bronze: Senior Women
AFRICA U-18 & U-20 CHAMPIONSHIPS - I.COAST
Gold: Josephine Lalam (Javelin)
Silver: Samuel Kibet (10000m)
Bronze: Sarah Chelangat (5000m)
AFRICAN GAMES - MOROCCO
Bronze: Halimah Nakaayi (800m)
Bronze: Shida Leni, Jacent Nyamahunge, Nasiba Nabirye and Emily Nanziri (Women’s 4x400m)
DOHA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS - QATAR
Gold: Joshua Cheptegei (10000m)
Gold: Halimah Nakaayi (800m)