Congested calendar could mean athletes won't double up in 2021

NAIROBI - Kenya's elite athletes and coaches are facing a dilemma in advising their runners on which events to compete in when action resumes ahead of the busy 2021 season.

World 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri says it will be hard for athletes to double up in competitions in the 2021 season because they are packed closely together.

"The question is will it be possible for athletes to double or compete in two subsequent events without a burnout?" Obiri posted on Friday.

For athletes from Kenya and Africa, the World Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games fall in the same period in 2022.

While Obiri, Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Kipyegon, World 1,500m champion Elijah Manangoi and his training partner Timothy Cheruiyot have the potential to double up, coach Bernard Ouma has poured cold water on any chance of top athletes doing so.

"It will be a hard shot for the middle and long distance runners to double, especially with fatigue creeping in," Ouma said.

World Athletics has been forced to reshuffle its calendar after the global COVID-19 pandemic wrecked the 2020 season.

With the Tokyo Olympics now being held from July 23 to August 8, 2021, this has forced the World Championships in Oregon, US to be held in July 2022.

However, just three days after that tournament ends, athletes from several countries will be taking part in the 22nd Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK from July 27 to August 7.

World Athletics has also suspended recognition of results achieved in the remainder of 2020 to be used for Olympic qualification.

Former World steeplechase champion Emma Coburn was one of many to question the decision.

"This decision really stings. If we do get to race anything in 2020, our Olympic qualifying times won't be counted. This takes away the last bit of hope of making 2020 a productive, meaningful year in our career," Coburn said.

American steeplechaser Evan Jager was equally disappointed.

"Even if COVID-19 clears up in some countries and it's safe to compete, World Athletics takes away a major motivation to run fast this year. I understand freezing the world rankings but I feel achieving the Olympic standard should still be on the table," Jager said.

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