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Young Kenyan Athletes Prepare for Track & Field Championships


Banita Dodhia, 14, warms up before another workout in preparation for the javelin competition at the IAAF World Under 18 Championships in July in Nairobi. (L. Ruvaga/VOA)

As Nairobi gears up for the IAAF World Under 18 Championships in July, track and field athletes are honing their skills and durability. Balancing school and athletics is one of their challenges.

Banita Dodhia, 14, whose speciality is the javelin, is striking this balance while preparing for the International Association of Athletics Federation event, but she says she couldn't do it without the support of her family.

"I get a lot of support, like my mum's always coming to all my events," she said. "My dad tries as well. And then also, my whole family just is always supporting me through it all. I think it will be tough competition, and I hope to get a gold, but if not, my personal record is what I'm aiming for as well."

Banita Dodhia says training for the U18 Championships would be impossible without the support of her family. (L. Ruvaga/VOA)
Banita Dodhia says training for the U18 Championships would be impossible without the support of her family. (L. Ruvaga/VOA)

Nairobi's Moi International Sports Center is undergoing renovation in preparation for the championships. Above the din, athletes perfect their skills under the watchful gaze of Caroline Kola, who has been coaching for 14 years.

Performing at home

Kola hopes Dodhia and her 31 other junior track and field athletes will excel in their various events.

Coach Caroline Kola hopes her 32 young athletes will excel in their various events. (L. Ruvaga/VOA)
Coach Caroline Kola hopes her 32 young athletes will excel in their various events. (L. Ruvaga/VOA)

"I'm so excited because it's taking place at home, and a championship taking place at home, you really ought to show the power you have at home," the coach said. "My hopes for the Nairobi team that I'm coaching now — I think maybe around five or six medals."

The U18 Championships have been fraught with controversy. Six countries — the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand — withdrew from the games, citing security concerns.

Speaking to VOA, Barnaba Korir, an official from Athletics Kenya who doubles as the chairman of Team Kenya, noted that the association was aiming for a drug-free competition.

Nairobi's Moi International Sports Center is undergoing renovation in preparation for the championships. Above the din, athletes perfect their skills. (L. Ruvaga/VOA)
Nairobi's Moi International Sports Center is undergoing renovation in preparation for the championships. Above the din, athletes perfect their skills. (L. Ruvaga/VOA)

"There are stringent measures that have been put in place to make sure our athletes run clean with WADA [the World Anti-Doping Agency]," he said. "They have established ADAK, which is the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya, and they are now testing our athletes."

The IAAF event set for July 12-16 in Nairobi will be the last world youth-level type of competition. The federation has decided to find more appropriate games in partnership with area associations.

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