Managers of Uganda’s top runners feel the 2020 season could almost be dead because of the absence of major championships even after World Athletics released a new three-month track events calendar this week.
Athletics has been heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic which led to the postponement of the World Indoor Championships (China), Tokyo 2020 Olympics (Japan), the World U-20 Championships (Kenya) and the World Half-Marathon Championships (Poland).
The Africa Cross-country and Africa Senior Athletics Championships, too, were suspended.
On Tuesday, World Athletics announced there will be new dates for Continental Tour Gold and Wanda Diamond League running from August to October.
Baby steps towards the refurbishment on Namboole Stadium gained a major boost earlier this week after the government committed to fund renovation activities.
“It’s good a calendar is out,” said Jurrie van der Velden, who manages Uganda’s hot cake Joshua Cheptegei and world 800m champion Halimah Nakaayi among others.
“It gives us something to focus for.
Now we are waiting to know exactly which events will take place where and we can start planning,” said Jurrie from Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Polant to host
Six events on the Continental Tour Gold and 11 more on the Diamond League (DL) are tentatively set with a World Half-Marathon earlier set for March 29, now confirmed to October 17 in Gdynia, Poland.
“The new schedule has the goal to save the 2020 season,” opined Monica Pont Chafer, who works closely with national marathon record holder Juliet Chekwel. Chafer is based in Lombardy, northern Italy which was the epicenter of the coronavirus in Europe.
“It looks like there no goals for individual athletes this year,” she said. “There is no Olympics, no U20 Champs and no African Champs. Anyway, our Ugandan athletes are young and for them, it is good to compete and keep getting experience.”
While the tentative calendar for track and field events is out, the planned resumption of athletics hasn’t captured the bigger group of Uganda’s elite runners who cherish the road and are gearing for Gdynia.
Few meets for Ugandans
“Only a small number of Ugandans will have a chance this summer as there is only a small number of track meets available. Unfortunately, but that’s the reality we live in,” said Jurrie.
“So hopefully, road racing also opens up as that will allow more. Realistically, the level of Ugandan athletes still is too low to compete in DLs etc as you know.
“We are still upcoming, yet we already have a couple of athletes capable to compete at the highest level.” added the Dutchman.
Last year, a total 15 Ugandan runners took part in 13 of the 14 DL Meets across four continents and secured five wins, the country’s most notable participation on the circuit.
On the Continental Tour which includes a leg in Nairobi on September 26, a bulk prize money of $200,000 (Shs757m) will be offered for each Gold Meeting.
WORLD ATHLETICS CALENDAR
SCHEDULE FOR AUGUST
Aug 11: Turku (Continental Tour Gold)
Aug 14: Monaco (Wanda Diamond League)
Aug 16: Gateshead (DL)
Aug 20: Szekesfehervar (CT)
Aug 23: Stockholm (DL)
Sept 2: Lausanne (DL)
Sept 4: Brussels (DL)
Sept 6: Paris [TBC] - (DL) & Silesia (CT)
Sept 8: Ostrava (CT)
Sept 15: Zagreb (CT)
Sept 17: Rome/Naples (DL)
Sept 19: Shanghai (DL)
Sept 26: Nairobi (CT)
Oct 4: Eugene (DL)
Oct 9: Doha (DL)
Oct 17: World Half-Marathon Champs
Oct 17: China [Venue TBA] - (DL)
RECALL - 2019 DIAMOND LEAGUE
June 13 - Oslo: Halimah Nakaayi (800m)
June 30 - Eugene: Joshua Cheptegei (2-Mile Run)
August 18 - Birmingham: Ronald Musagala (1,500m)
August 24 - Paris: Ronald Musagala (1,500m)
August 29 - Zurich: Joshua Cheptegei (5,000m)