Category Archives: Features

UK Sport change maternity policy to pay elite athletes

UK Sport have committed to supporting mothers in sport with a “more overt approach”, including new maternity guidance and guaranteed funding for elite athletes up to nine months postpartum.

Last year a Telegraph Sport investigation found that, while UK Sport encouraged individual sporting governing bodies to have maternity policies in place, it had left it up to them to determine the details, causing confusion and potential funding losses for athletes.

But on Tuesday, UK Sport are set to publish updated guidance for pregnant athletes and the sports they oversee, and also revealed to Telegraph Sport they have now implemented a sports-wide maternity pay policy, which guarantees elite athletes full funding throughout their pregnancy and up to nine months after giving birth.

The policy applies to those who are on Athlete Performance Agreements (APAs), who receive National Lottery-funded grants, and are therefore ineligible for statutory maternity pay that standard employees enjoy.

As well as the guaranteed continuation of funding, which was introduced in April, the new guidance gives advice to athletes about how and when to share their pregnancy with their sport, advises the sport on next steps, provides frameworks for training pre and postpartum as well as extensive resources for pregnant athletes.

“At UK Sport, we really strongly believe that starting a family and being an elite athlete shouldn’t be mutually exclusive,” CEO Sally Munday told Telegraph Sport in an exclusive interview. “We’re taking a much more overt approach to this. What we want through this new guidance is to ensure that female athletes and sports have got the right resources at their disposal so that mothers and mothers-to-be are confident they’ll be fully supported. That’s the real driver.”

Through an 18-month consultation, which included gathering expertise from athletes, sports, medical professionals and charities, UK Sport found that pregnancy must be treated differently according to the safety of the sport and the individual’s unique experience, and so avoided making the guidance “one-size-fits-all”.

The framework did propose specific timeframes though, including that athletes must “signal their intent” within six months of giving birth regarding their plans to return to pre-pregnancy levels of training. At nine months, athlete potential will be assessed and confirmed to UK Sport, in order for them to continue accessing their funding, but this timeframe could be reconsidered if an athlete were to experience complications during their pregnancy or childbirth.

Five-time Olympic archer Naomi Folkard knows the obstacles for new mothers in elite sport, as she was forced to pump and freeze 80 bottles of breast milk ahead of flying to Tokyo, when the IOC did not permit her to travel with her five-month-old daughter due to Covid restrictions. She was one of the athletes who contributed to UK Sport’s consultation and said the new guidance is potentially life-changing.

“I think if this was in place 20 years ago and [sport] was a safe place to talk about pregnancy, I may well have chosen to have a baby a lot earlier in my career,” Folkard said. “In my early 20s I felt like having a baby and being an athlete wasn’t possible. I’ve now had a baby and I’ve competed in Tokyo when she was five months old, and I realised that it is totally possible. I could have made very different choices earlier on in my career.”

Munday agreed making motherhood an open conversation in elite sport, rather than a taboo, is UK Sport’s key aim: “We want to make sure that female athletes can talk about starting a family in the same way they talk about what they might want to study alongside being an athlete or what they want to do as a career post being an athlete. It’s been driven by our ambition for our community to be world-leading in this space.”

UK Sport also said it planned to provide further guidance specifically on surrogacy, egg-freezing, adoption, IVF and same-sex parents.

Source: telegraph.co.uk

Ultramarathon survivors threatened for speaking out

When Zhang Xiaotao woke up he was in a cave and somebody had lit a fire to keep him warm. He had no idea how he’d got there.

Zhang’s frozen unconscious body had been found by a passing shepherd who’d wrapped him in a quilt and carried him over his shoulders to safety. He was one of the lucky ones.

In May this year, 21 competitors died at an ultra-running event in northern China hit by extreme weather conditions: hail, heavy rain and intense gales caused temperatures to plummet, and nobody seemed prepared for it.

Only a small number felt comfortable talking about what happened – and some have been threatened for doing so.

The sun was out on race day in Baiyin, a former mining area in China’s Gansu province. Some 172 athletes were ready to run 62 miles (100km) through the Yellow River Stone Forest national park.

The organisers were expecting good conditions – they’d had mild weather the previous three years. They had even arranged for some of the competitors’ cold-weather gear to be moved forward along the course so they could pick it up later in the day.

But soon after Zhang arrived at the start line, a cold wind began to blow. Some runners gathered in a nearby gift shop to take shelter, many of them shivering in their short-sleeved tops and shorts.

Zhang started the race well. He was among the quickest to reach the first checkpoint, making light work of the rugged mountain trails. Things started to go badly wrong just before the second checkpoint, some 20km into the course.

“I was halfway up the mountain when hail started to fall,” he later wrote in a post on Chinese social media. “My face was pummelled by ice and my vision was blurred, making it difficult to see the path clearly.”

Still, Zhang went on. He overtook Huang Guanjun, the men’s hearing-impaired marathon winner at China’s 2019 National Paralympic Games, who was struggling badly. He went across to another runner, Wu Panrong, with whom he’d been keeping pace since the start.

Wu was shaking and his voice was trembling as he spoke. Zhang put his arm around him and the pair continued together, but quickly the wind became so strong, and the ground so slippery, that they were forced to separate.

As Zhang continued to ascend, he was overpowered by the wind, with gusts reaching up to 55mph. He’d forced himself up from the ground many times, but now because of the freezing cold he began to lose control of his limbs. The temperature felt like -5C. This time when he fell down he couldn’t get back up.

Thinking fast, Zhang covered himself with an insulation blanket. He took out his GPS tracker, pressed the SOS button, and passed out.

                      A report later found that organisers had failed to take measures despite weather warnings

Closer to the back of the field, another runner, who goes by the alias Liuluo Nanfang, was hit by the frozen rain. It felt like bullets against his face.

As he progressed he saw somebody walking towards him, coming down from the top of the mountain. The runner said it was too cold, that he couldn’t stand it and was retiring.

But Nanfang, like Zhang, decided to keep going. The higher he climbed, the stronger the wind and the colder he felt. He saw a few more competitors coming down on his way up the mountain. His whole body was soaking wet, including his shoes and socks.

When he finally did realise he had to stop, he found a relatively sheltered spot and tried to get warm. He took out his insulation blanket, wrapping it around his body. It was instantly blown away by the wind as he’d lost almost all sensation and control in his fingers. He put one in his mouth, holding it for a long time, but it didn’t help.

As Nanfang now started to head back down the mountain, his vision was blurred and he was shaking. He felt very confused but knew he had to persist.

Halfway down he met a member of the rescue team that had been dispatched after the weather turned. He was directed to a wooden hut. Inside, there were at least 10 others who had decided to withdraw before him. About an hour later that number had reached around 50. Some spoke of seeing competitors collapsed by the side of the road, frothing at their mouths.

“When they said this, their eyes were red,” Nanfang later wrote on social media.

                            The Yellow River Stone Forest is a tourist site and national park in Gansu, China

Zhang, meanwhile, had been rescued by the shepherd, who’d taken off his wet clothes and wrapped him in a quilt. Inside the cave, he wasn’t alone.

When he came to, about an hour later, there were other runners also taking refuge there, some of whom had also been saved by the shepherd. The group had been waiting for him to wake up so they could descend the mountain together.

At the bottom, medics and armed police were waiting. More than 1,200 rescuers were deployed throughout the night, assisted by thermal-imaging drones and radar detectors, according to state media.

The following morning, authorities confirmed that 21 people died, including Huang, who Zhang overtook, and Wu, the runner he’d kept pace with at the start of the race.

A report later found that organisers failed to take action despite warnings of inclement weather in the run up to the event.

As news of the deaths broke on social media, many people questioned how the tragedy could have happened. Some competitors, such as Zhang and Nanfang, chose to write about their experiences online to help people understand what it was like.

But Zhang’s post, written under the name ‘Brother Tao is running’, disappeared shortly after it was published.

When Caixin – a Beijing-based news website – re-uploaded his testimony, a new post appeared on the account a week later, begging the media and social media users to leave him and his family alone.

It later transpired that Zhang had suspended his account after people questioned his story. Some accused him of showing off for being the sole survivor at the front of the pack, others had sent him death threats.

“We don’t want to be internet celebrities,” he wrote online, adding that the man who saved him had also faced pressure from the media and “other aspects”.

“Our lives need to be quiet,” he wrote. “Please everyone, especially friends in the media, do not disturb me and do not question me.”

The survivors weren’t the only ones to find themselves put under pressure.

                                         Rescuers search for and attend to stricken athletes on the race trail

One woman, who lost her father in the race, was targeted with social media abuse on Weibo after questioning how her father was “allowed to die”. She was accused of spreading rumours and using “foreign forces” to spread negative stories about China.

Another woman, Huang Yinzhen, whose brother died, was followed by local officials who she claimed were trying to keep relatives from speaking to each other.

“They just prevent us from contacting other family members or reporters, so they keep monitoring us,” she told the New York Times.

In China it’s typical for relatives of those who have died in similar circumstances – where authorities face blame – to have pressure placed on them to remain silent. For the government, social media attention on any possible failings is not welcome.

A month after the race, in June, 27 local officials were punished. The Communist Party secretary of Jingtai County, Li Zuobi, was found dead. He died after falling from the apartment in which he lived. Police ruled out homicide.

The Baiyin marathon is just one of many races in a country that was experiencing a running boom. Its tragic outcome has brought the future of these events into question.

According to the Chinese Athletics Association (CAA), China hosted 40 times more marathons in 2018 than in 2014. The CAA said there were 1,900 “running races” in the country in 2019.

Before Covid hit, many small towns and regions attempted to capitalise on this by hosting events in order to bring more tourism into the area and boost the local economy.

After what happened in Baiyin, the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection accused organisers of some of the country’s races of “focusing on economic benefits” while they are “unwilling to invest more in safety”.

With Beijing’s hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics just months away, China has suspended extreme sports such as trail running, ultramarathons and wingsuit flying while it overhauls safety regulations. It is not yet clear when they will restart. There have been reports that not even a chess tournament managed to escape the new measures.

But without events like these, people wishing to get involved, perhaps even future star athletes, are finding themselves frustrated. In some cases, as Outside Magazine points out, athletes could take matters into their own hands, venturing into the mountains without any regulation whatsoever and putting themselves at risk.

Mark Dreyer, who runs the China Sports Insider website, wrote on Twitter: “If this incident has removed the top layer of the mass participation pyramid – as seems likely – there’s no telling what effect that would have at the lower levels.

“The long-term effects of this tragic – and avoidable – accident could also be significant.”

Letesenbet Gidey: First and Only woman to hold 4 World Records simultaneously

She remains a unique women athlete on the globe, breaking all records before her as she holds four world records under her medal cabinet.

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey remains a woman of all firsts after shooting into the limelight in 2015 when she won the World Cross Country Junior Championships in Guiyang, China.

Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia Wins the World Cross Country junior title in 2015. PHOTO: Getty Images

Born and raised in the troubled Endameskel, aged 17 years, she made her name known across the globe when she won the world cross country junior title for her nation.

She went ahead to win bronze at the 2019 World Cross Country Championships behind the champion Hellen Obiri and her country mate Dera Dida.

At 21, she won silver in 10,000m at the 2019 event with her personal best of 30:21.23 in a race that was won by Sifan Hassan from the Netherlands who also ran a world lead with the late Agnes Jebet Tirop winning bronze.

In the same year Gidey went on produced again one of her fastest time ever in the Outdoor 3000m race that was held in Palo Alto, California where she set a National Record of 8:20.27.

Letesenbet Gidey destroyed women’s 15km World record at the annual Zevenheuvelenloop in Nijmegen, Netherlands. PHOTO: NN Running Team

The Ethiopian went on rampage in November 2019 setting a new world record of 44:20 in the 15K run at the Zevenheuvelenloop road race in Nijmegen, Netherlands, breaking the previous world record held by Joyciline Jepkosgei that she had set in 2017 by more than a minute, and becoming the first woman to run 15K under 45 minutes.

Having four titles as a junior, she went to 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games with a mission to be on the podium and she did with a bronze in the 10,000m behind Sifan Hassan with Bahrain’s Kalkidan Gezahegne (the current 10Km world record holder though not ratified) taking the silver.

Letesenbet Gidey Shatters 5000 World Record Valencia. PHOTO NN RUNNING TEAM

With just six years since 2015, Gidey has written her name in four world record events she smashed her first world 5,000m record during the 2020 in 14:06.62 and this summer she went ahead and shattered the world record in the 10,000 meters in Hengelo, Netherlands. She is the first woman since Ingrid Kristiansen from 1986-1993 to hold them both simultaneously.

Letesenbet Gidey poses for after breaking the world record in women’s 10,000m. PHOTO: COURTESY

Gidey obliterated the women’s half marathon world record in her debut at the distance, winning the Valencia Half Marathon Trinidad Alfonso in 1:02.52. The Ethiopian’s performance improved on the previous world record of 1:04.02 that had been set by Ruth Chepngetich in Istanbul in April—by 70 seconds. This was the third world record the 23-year-old has broken in the last year.

Gidey’s winning time of 1:02.52 marks the first time a woman has ever run faster than the 64 and 63-minute barrier for the half marathon distance.

To put Gidey’s time into perspective, according to World Athletics scoring tables, 62:02 equates to approximately a 13:50 5K, 29-minute 10K and a 2:11 marathon.

Her performance in the half-marathon surpassed both of her previous records. It also indicates that if she moves up to the marathon, she’ll be a strong contender to take down that record as well, which is currently held by Brigid Kosgei at 2:14:04.

This time shows the projections of what someone could run at different distances based on that performance. Her actual splits on that day were no less impressive, however, and she went through 5K in 15:00, sped up over the next 5K to split 29:45 for 10K and went through 15K in 44:29. This 15K time is remarkable, considering it is only nine seconds slower than her own 15K world record.

Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey smashes the World Half Marathon record at the Valencia Half Marathon. PHOTO: Getty Images

Peres Jepchirchir and Joyciline Jepkosgei expected to share WMM jackpot prize

Newly crowned New York City marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir and London marathon champion Joyciline Jepkosgei will be battling for the World Marathon Majors jack pot prize.

Following the conclusion of the marathon season on Sunday at the New York, the two marathon queens will be on for the prize following their dominance in the majors.

Jepchirchir, who won New York garnered 25 points to add on her Olympic marathon win is expected to share the prize with Jepkosgei, the winner on 2020 New York City marathon and 2021 London marathon, who have all gained 50 points from the two wins.

Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir wins the women’s marathon final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Sapporo on August 7, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

Another Kenyan runner on the prize list will be world marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei, who won silver at the Olympic Games and finished 4th at the London marathon.

Jepchirchir said it will be a tricky way of earnings after enjoying the 2020 and 2021 season winning all her races and setting two world records and reclaiming her world half marathon title.

“This time, it will be a challenge in sharing the prize money but that is not a problem at all,” said Jepchirchir after winning New York City marathon on Sunday.

She also said that, after winning her first world marathon majors title she will have to take a break.

Athletics – London Marathon – London, Britain – October 3, 2021 Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei celebrates winning the elite women’s race REUTERS/Matthew Childs

After closing a season on a high note, the Valencia marathon champion said she had had a successful 2020/2021 season and it is her high time to take a break, as she thinks of the next move next season.

“It has been a good season for me. Both last year and this year’s where I have won in almost all races I have competed in and it will be my time to bond with the family back home,” said Jepchirchir while in the USA after winning her third marathon in all four marathons she has run.

Last year, Jephirchir came from maternity leave to win her second world half marathon title as well as the Valencia marathon.

“My journey has been a success and in all these I owe it to God and the first thing is to give my body time to recover well,” added Jepchirchir.

At the New York City marathon, she won the title in 2:22.39 beating her country mate Viola Cheptoo Lagat and Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh to second and third in 2:22:44 as Yeshaneh clocked 2:24.42 respectively.

She said that it was a wonderful win that she expected following her intense training.

“It was wonderful, winning this marathon. The year has been so great. After winning the Olympic title, I did not expect to win this title. I was well prepared despite the fact that there was limited time before the race,” Jepchirchir said.

With world championships and Commonwealth Games coming next year, Jepchirchir was reluctant to commit to the two championships saying she will be making her announcement next year on her next move.

“For now I want to relax and recover my body. Once I resume my training by next year, I will be in for a better season,” said Jepchirchir who will be arriving in the country on Tuesday morning.

 

Abdi Nageeye: Victory at the New York City Marathon Would Inspire Somalis and Refugees

Abdi Nageeye captured hearts worldwide with his Olympic marathon silver at the Tokyo 2020 which also resonated with refugee communities.

The celebrations spread across the Netherlands, his adopted home after escaping war in Somalia, and in Kenya, the long-distance powerhouse where he honed his running career.

The Tokyo silver was the Netherlands’ second-ever medal in the Olympic marathon event and another example for Kenya’s High-Altitude Training Camp to boast about.

My target is to win. I really believe now that I can – Abdi Nageeye ahead of the 2021 New York City Marathon

On November 7, the Dutch runner will pound the streets of the New York City Marathon for the first time seeking to end his season with a victory to add to his cherished Olympic medal, after proving that he can run with ‘the best in the world’.

“My target is to win. I really believe now that I’m good in the race where you have a championship field, where you aim for the podium. I have good sprints and confidence,” he told Olympics.com from his home in Eldoret, Kenya.

But, even more important for Nageeye, is cementing his role as a huge inspiration for the younger generations in Somalia.

Olympic silver medalist Abdi Nageeye celebrates crossing the finish line at Tokyo 2020. Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Abdi Nageeye: From Somalia to the Netherlands

Aged six, Abdi Nageeye left Somalia with his brother for the Netherlands. After a four-year stint in Europe, the siblings left for Syria and returned home to Somalia. It wasn’t long before the teenager resettled back in the Netherlands with his adopted family via Ethiopia.

Like most boys, the young teen enjoyed playing football. One day, he laced up his running shoes for a 5km run, which he completed in a relatively fast 17 minutes.

That was in 2006. He turned out to be a good runner and was encouraged to exploit his new interest. A year later he debuted for the Netherlands, in a junior race, at the European Cross-Country Championships.

That marked the start of an athletics career that has seen Nageeye compete at European and World Championships, two Olympic Games and run marathons in major cities.

His national record and personal best of 2:06.17 at the 2019 Amsterdam Marathon remains ‘one of the best days’ of his life.

“That race gave me a lot of confidence. I ran that race with an injury from 33km, a lot of cramping on my hamstring. And it’s that confidence that I had until the Olympics,” he recalled of the race where he placed fourth.

Abdi Nageeye: The Olympic lesson in Rio and the medal in Tokyo

The run in Amsterdam fanned his ambition of making the podium at a major championship.

“I knew I was able to do something. I never showed it at the [2018] European Championships, I didn’t prepare smart enough, but I knew I was able to run well and to win major marathons. But people want to receive the result at the finish line, and I was not able to do it.”

His Rio 2016 experience, where he finished 11th, counted for something when he lined up for the Olympic marathon in Sapporo.

When Eliud Kipchoge confirmed his greatness by clinching his second consecutive Olympic gold,only Nageeye came close.

Gold medalist Eliud Kipchoge of Team Kenya (L) hugs silver medalist Abdi Nageeye of Team Netherlands (R) after completing the men’s Olympic marathon in Japan. Picture by 2021 Getty Images

As they had done many times in training in Kaptagat, when he trained with Kipchoge, and his renowned coach Patrick Sang, the Dutch runner followed his lead when he broke away from the pack around the 30km mark.

“I knew I had this big chance with the whole world watching and I said I will show them what I can do.”- Abdi Nageeye on the silver at Tokyo 2020.

He created a near-perfect race, though it was a long and hard chase behind Kipchoge, his efforts were rewarded. Abdi took an Olympic silver medal with a season’s best time of 2:09:58.

“It was a long journey, the preparations… there were three Kenyans and three Ethiopians who are normally very strong…Then, there I was at the finish line, number two. It was a good feeling!”

The 32-year-old was cheered to the line in Sapporo by Kipchoge.

“When I was crossing the finish line, I was like, ‘We did it!’”

Abdi Nageeye: Inspirational legacy from Eliud Kipchoge

Nageeye may have shifted his training base to Iten, considered the cradle of Kenyan long-distance training, but the values he picked up from Eliud Kipchoge remain.

“He’s the greatest! Nobody can argue with that, he’s the greatest! From Eliud, I learned to take my time and focus on the progress. I learned the importance of discipline.”

Nageeye now trains remotely with Gary Lough, the coach of four-time Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah.

The British coach also coaches Somali-born Belgian Bashir Abdi who edged past Kenyan Lawrence Cherono in the home stretch for bronze at the Olympics.

“The whole of Somalia was watching us at that moment, and they were talking about us. Most of them started running because of Mo Farah and many will start now because of me and Bashir.”

It has been 13 weeks since the epic Olympic race and Nageeye is on the entry list for the New York City Marathon, looking to capitalise on his newfound fame and form.

“I think I will be in good shape as it is more of a championship race, if I was trying to run 2:04 [below the course record], it would not be possible. I’ll be ready.”

The Dutch half-marathon record holder who lives in the running town of Eldoret is giving himself every shot.

“I’m good in the race where you have this championship field, where you are just aiming for the podium. I have good sprints, confidence, I’m training well until now, so my goal really is to win this race.”

Abdi Nageeye: Motivation to be the best

The second-fastest man over the marathon Kenenisa Bekele leads the men’s field in the 2021 New York City Marathon that includes a handful of previous podium finishers.

Ethiopia’s Girma Bekele Gebre, third in 2019, and the 2016 New York champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie of Eritrea are both considered top-three contenders.

“I am just hearing one or two names but I’m not focusing on that. I’m focusing on training and to be as fit as possible at the start line. It’s only when I get to the athletes’ hotel [in New York], and I see the faces and say ‘OK, you are there, and you too,’ and then I will make my plan,” said the marathoner who ran the Boston Marathon twice finishing 7th in 2018.

Just like at the Olympics, his motivation to win his debut New York Marathon runs deep.

“In Somalia, our last world champion was in 1987, that’s Abdi Bile and they just know him. That’s it. They even named a popular Toyota pick up after him, the Abdi Bile car,” he explained.

Bile, the 1996 Olympian, is Somalia’s most decorated athlete in history and still holds several national records.

“In Somalia, they don’t know much about running… The civil war put a pause on everything. So, it’s up to us to educate them, help them to understand and practice sport. Not only those in Somalia but the Somali community around the world.”

Getty Images

Source: olympics.com

Athlete, 25, diagnosed with incurable cancer

At the age of 25, middle-distance runner Andrew McAslan is facing an uncertain future. Like any promising athlete he had hopes of progressing and competing at international level but, now, he is learning to deal with having incurable cancer.

In July this year, McAslan was diagnosed with Stage Four Non-Hodgkin Follicular Lymphoma and is currently having immuno-chemotherapy.

Despite having his symptoms for around six months, it’s highly likely the Manchester athlete – now living in Leeds – could have had the disease for around three to four years, and it had just been slowly growing. But he also has to come to terms with the fact there is no cure for his condition.

Even if remission is achieved it will still be living in his body with a high chance it will start growing again. There is also no indication of when or how severe that may be.

While McAslan now has a diagnosis, the journey to get to that point was far from straightforward. The runner had previously struggled with glandular fever through university but, despite all the problems that came with it, he managed to win a bronze medal in the BUCS 800m two years ago.

With that achievement in mind, the 25-year-old had hopes of progressing onto the international level but those ambitions were soon dashed. His form in 2020 started to deteriorate, he wasn’t running well and he was struggling to understand why.

Then, in January, his condition took another turn. “In training I didn’t feel like myself and I was sort of running ok, but not feeling great,” McAslan said. “It was around January time when I started to get really strange symptoms in my stomach and bowel. “I’d try to sleep and it would just be pulsating.

It felt like I was constantly bloated lower down and in a different area. “It was nothing like I had experienced before and I tried to train through it, then it started to affect my training. “I called the GP and explained and they initially went straight to saying I had IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome). I even pushed the blood tests to see what was going on.”

Those blood tests showed McAslan’s iron and haemoglobin levels were low, and he was given iron tablets to try and improve them.

However, deep down, the runner still didn’t feel his diagnosis was right.

“I wasn’t fully convinced about the IBS so I started taking the iron tablets,” he said.

“That improved my training a little bit and made me feel better, but not amazing.

“I actually did a race, even though my training wasn’t going that well. It was a lot slower than what I normally do but it went really badly. My partner saw me halfway through and thought something’s wrong with it.

“From there my training really went downhill – I struggled to run at the normal sort of pace I was at.

“For example, in a session I’d get to 100m and my body would feel as if it had just lost all energy. From there it was like ‘maybe we need to go see someone else and get another opinion’.

In the end McAslan saw two other consultants to get to the bottom of the problem.

Both came to the same conclusion, that the runner had IBS ‘probably due to stress’. One even said they could rule out cancer straight away because McAslan was ‘too young’.

“You don’t just get a lump out of nowhere that big”

The middle-distance runner had big aspirations before his diagnosis

“As time went on a big lump under my chin developed, a really hard lump,” the 25-year-old continued.

“As soon as that came up we thought ‘that didn’t seem right’. You don’t just get a lump out of nowhere that big.

“I went again to a GP and immediately she said ‘I need to refer you, that doesn’t look good’.

“She got an urgent referral from there and, within two weeks, had a scan on that specific lump and they wanted to do a biopsy because of what they’d seen on the scan.

“It was strange with all the different avenues I had gone down to get checked and scanned, this new lump comes and those checks all came to a head.

“Then I got the news that I had some sort of lymphoma.”

That’s the news no one ever wants to hear, suddenly McAslan’s world was looking very different.

All the aspirations for international competition, and becoming the best athlete he could be, were pushed to the side. Now his life was what took priority.

“I’m 25 and it’s the last thing I expected to happen at this age,” he added.

“It’s properly turned my world upside down. I’ve gone from being care-free and you would never expect your life to be in question at this age.”

He continued: “It makes you focus on what’s important. The tricky thing is trying to focus on, if you want to do something, try and live more in the moment and not worry about what’s to come.

“The tricky thing is, at the moment, we have to shield and no one’s been into our flat. We have to meet people outside.

“It’s definitely about doing the things you want to do and not put it off.

“The mental side of it, it’s been tough to come to terms with the situation but I have managed to stay positive and really focus on just getting the most out of life at any moment.

“I’m just focusing on putting myself in the best position and not feeling sorry for myself.

“If you have a good mindset, that’s half the battle in making sure your body feels good.”

“She’s the hero of this story”

Andrew McAslan has been diagnosed with incurable cancer ( Image: Andrew McAslan)

Since sharing the news about his diagnosis, McAslan has been flooded with messages from the athletics community wishing him well.

But his family, and especially his partner – 800m athlete Leah Barrow – have been a tremendous support through it all.

“She has been so amazing,” McAslan said about his partner.

“I don’t do much research about the disease, I thought I’d focus on keeping myself in a good headspace and relax – all that sort of stuff – when I’m feeling rough.

“She does a lot of research and she actually found the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation. This Facebook page has so much information about real-life experiences, symptoms and how to deal with different things.

“I really have her to thank for how well this fundraiser has done.”

He added: “She’s the hero of this story if you like. It wouldn’t have happened without her.”

Hopes of finding a cure for McAslan’s cancer are pinned on the fundraiser in question, which is raising money for the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation.

The organisation was founded by Nicola Mendelsohn, the vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for Facebook, after she too was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma four years ago.

The Foundation’s aim is to fund research, raise awareness, help patients and ultimately find a cure for the disease.

“I’m so thankful for the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation campaign,” McAslan added.

“I think it’s amazing what they’re doing, trying to find a cure and trying to find a cure in the quickest time.

“With everything that’s gone on with Covid that’s given this area a boost to know that it can be done, you just need the resource.

“Cancer’s been underfunded for so long. When I was diagnosed I was obviously in huge shock and really upset but I hadn’t heard of that before.”

What is Follicular Lymphoma?

  • Follicular lymphoma (FL) is an incurable type of blood cancer that affects the lymph glands.
  • There are over 100 different types of blood cancers and over 60 types of lymphoma. There are two main types of lymphoma – Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • FL is the second most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and in most cases is an indolent (slow growing) type of blood cancer that affects the lymph glands.
  • Lymph glands form part of your immune system and act as a filter to help fight infection.
  • Lymphoma develops when abnormal white cells are made that don’t work properly. These cells then increase in number, typically in your lymph glands resulting in painless swelling, usually in one or more of your lymph nodes.

For more information visit the Follicular Lymphoma here

“If you think something’s not right and you’re not happy with the answer, just push”

McAslan has plenty of his own battles to fight as he learns to deal with his incurable condition.

But he’s also taken it upon himself to raise awareness and spread his message far and wide in the process.

“I want a cure as much as the next person, to not worry when it’s going to come back and to have treatment again,” he said.

“The part I want to raise awareness about is actually how hard it is to diagnose.

“So many people, their blood tests seem fairly normal. Mine was a bit off mainly because I was trying to do athletics training with it.

“If you can catch it earlier, they can manage how much it’s growing so they can treat it at the perfect time.

“My family were great in helping pay to see consultants for a meeting but there’s a lot of people who might not be able to do that.”

He added: “If you think something’s not right and you’re not happy with the answer, just push.

“Don’t be silly with it and get it checked.”

To donate to the fundraiser click here.

Abel Kirui, the long serving marathon runner

Two time world marathon Abel Kirui’s journeys to stardom was not easy but hard work and dedicating his time perfecting running skills.

The former Olympic marathon silver medalist is one runner who has maintained his running status for the last 16 years in marathon and other road running championships across the world.

Abel Kirui wins the 2011 World marathon. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

The athlete, who started running while in primary school, was a coward runner especially competing against his seniors but managed to reach Distract level. The same continued in secondary school.

“But my talent started growing in 2004 when I joined training camp that shaped my running skills. In 2005, I ran well in many road races, winning almost all. In 2006, I joined marathon and paced for Haile Gebreslasie but I decided to finish the race because my mind was reading far and finished in 9th,” said Kirui.

In 2009, he won his first world marathon title and defended in 2011 and in 2012 he won silver at the Olympic Games in London in a marathon won by Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich. With such results, Kirui says he was so happy considering how far he had come from.

“From 2012, I did not run after picking an injury and came back in 2016 winning Chicago marathon after winning Vienna marathon with a course record. That is a good history and I have medals but the most valuable are world champion and Olympic silver medals but once you come to my home, I have a sack full of medals from cities across the world,” said Kirui.

In high school, Kirui served as games captain as well as school head boy due to self-discipline that has been his driving force.

However he said that Athletics Kenya should have athletes’ cover so that when they get an injury, they can be treated.

“Upcoming athletes suffer most when they are injured because they lack funds to treat themselves. Those are additional things AK should to do. They should have medical cover and insurance so that when some of us retire, we don’t become the topic of the day of running poor in their lives,” added Kirui.

He added that if one is disciplined, concerned, training and focused, they can run for many years.

“My first outing in Europe was in 2005 and now it’s about 15 years and I still have energy to and aim to run in the Olympics. Am telling young athletes to use their time well. They should start from track, move slowly to small road races before heading into the marathon,” advised Kirui.

But young athletes are now rushing to marathon running in search of big money but that is not good at all. That means they lack history in running. They should do it gradually to grow.

He said that his greatest moment was when he won the Chicago marathon.

“I hope you saw how I danced. I wanted to do something on the American soil. That was the greatest point in my career,” concluded Kirui.

Abel Kirui’s arrival at the finish line of the Chicago Marathon will be remembered by all, not only for his intense career, but also because he started dancing seconds after crossing the finish line. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

The legend Fatwel Kimaiyo record lives on

Former Commonwealth Games 110m hurdles champion Fatwel Kimaiyo is a legend in Kenyan running history after representing the country for long.

The man who made his first outing winning gold in 110m hurdles at the East and Central Africa in Zambia said he remained relevant in the game because he ran naturally unlike the current generation that dopes.

Kimaiyo represented the country at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, competing in 400m hurdles but failed to qualify but avenged the following year with a win at the Africa Championships, winning gold in 110m hurdles.

His star shone most when he won the 1974 Commonwealth Games in 110m hurdles with his record still intact and finished fourth in 400m hurdles.

“At All Africa Games in 1968, I won the 110m hurdles and at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, I picked an injury and finished fourth yet I was the defending champion. I developed an injury that took a long time to heal,” said Kimaiyo lamenting that he was fit to win gold at the 1976 Olympic Games but Africa boycotted the race.

His running career was inspired by Kimaru Songok who was the 400m hurdles and 110m hurdles national champion. They were training together at the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) School.

He ran alongside Kimaru, the late Julius Sang from Prison, Ben Kandie, Kipchoge Keino, Amos Biwott, Mike Boit, Cherono Maiyo and Tecla Chemabwai Sang.

“Now we lack sprints because Americans have taken over because we lack training facilities. If athletics Kenya can be serious in training them, we can be so well. We have good sprinters and AK and the ministry of sports should establish camps in low areas, we can get good sprinters. For me, I used to train alone seriously. Even while at home, I used to be serious in my training, that is why I shone in the hurdles,” said Kimaiyo in his home.

He advised young sprinters that they should train and avoid doping. He says he’s too strong because he ran clean.

“To motivate more sprinters, we should have more training facilities to build more tracks. If you go to Europe, tracks are all over and there are no murram tracks. I want to urge county governments and the national government to build more training facilities and Kenya will shine in sprints,” he said.

The 74 year-old is married to Katherine Serem with five children, Ibrahim Kiptanui Maiyo, Late Stephen Kimutai Maiyo, Paul Kipkirui Kosgei, Naomie Jepkogei and Laban Kiptoo Maiyo. He currently works as a farmer and a Coach.

WHO IS Yalemzerf Yehualaw?

Yalemzerf Yehualaw may only have been running internationally for the past couple of years but her journey in the sport began when she was at school.

Growing up in West Gojjam, in a village in the Amhara region of Ethiopia north of Addis Ababa, she was the eldest of six siblings and showed her talent for athletics with wins on the track, road and cross country.

Winning 3000m and 5000m youth titles, the NN Running Team has explained, saw her talent recognised and she formed part of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation Academy system in Addis Ababa.

Then in 2017 she joined coach Tessema Abshero. “Many Ethiopian athletes have a natural gift,” Abshero told the NN Running Team, “but Yalemzerf had three very good qualities; speed, endurance and good core strength.”
Yehualaw worked towards her first overseas race, which was to be the 2019 Rabat Half Marathon. There she ran 1:09:13 to win by almost three minutes and then she returned to Ethiopia to compete over 10,000m on the track at the Ethiopian Championships, finishing fifth in 32:21.0 in a race won by Letesenbet Gidey, who would go on to break world records in the 5000m and 10,000m.

Later that year Yehualaw secured a place on the Ethiopian team for the African Games, which meant a return to Rabat and another win as, clocking 1:10:26, she broke the Games record. Her next race was the Delhi Half Marathon, where she improved her PB to 1:06:01 before a 10km win at the Great Ethiopian Run (31:55). She brought 2019 to a close with another win, clocking 1:07:34 at the Xiamen Half Marathon in China.

The year 2020 started with a sixth-place finish at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon despite stomach problems and she continued her preparations for the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland. But the pandemic forced the global event’s postponement and Yehualaw went back to train in her home village. Groups gradually returned to training in Addis Ababa and Yehualaw’s focus remained on the World Half Marathon Championships, rescheduled for October.

Her coach believed she could win a medal there and he was right, as Yehualaw improved to a PB of 1:05:19 to get bronze, despite slipping in the closing stages, as race winner Peres Jepchirchir ran a women-only world record of 1:05.16.

Just six weeks later, Yehualaw was back in action at the Delhi Half Marathon and this time she claimed the win, again running a PB of 1:04.46 which at that time was the second-fastest ever women’s half marathon. She ended the year in style by winning the Nationale-Nederlanden San Silvestre Vallecana 10km in Madrid in 31:17.

Yehualaw picked up from where she left off in 2021, winning the 10,000m at the Olympic candidate trial competition before a return to the roads. In Istanbul in April she went quicker still in the half marathon, improving to 1:04:40 for a time which then placed her third on the world all-time list.
Her Olympic hopes were dashed when she placed fourth in the Ethiopian Trials 10,000m and did not make the team for the Games in Tokyo but she instead put her energy into her next road race – the Antrim Coast Half Marathon.
After a spell spent training in Seefeld in Austria, Yehualaw made the trip to Northern Ireland with her eye on Chepngetich’s world record mark. She remained on pace throughout the race and her dream was realized when she crossed the finish line with a time of 1:03.44 on the clock. No other woman has ever run under 64 minutes for the distance.

“I have tried twice before to break the world record but it didn’t happen,” she said on the live BBC stream. “I’m so happy it happened today in Larne.”

STATS

World half marathon record progression (mixed)

1:06:44 Elana Meyer (RSA) Tokyo 1999
1:06:25 Lornah Kiplagat (NED) Udine 2007
1:05:50 Mary Keitany (KEN) Ras Al Khaimah 2011
1:05:12 Florence Kiplagat (KEN) Barcelona 2014
1:05:09 Florence Kiplagat (KEN) Barcelona 2015
1:05:06 Peres Jepchirchir (KEN) Ras Al Khaimah 2017
1:04:52 Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) Prague 2017
1:04:51 Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) Valencia 2017
1:04:31 Ababel Yeshaneh (ETH) Ras Al Khaimah 2020
1:04:02 Ruth Chepngetich (KEN) Istanbul 2021**
1:03:44 Yalemzerf Yehualaw (ETH) Larne 2021**

World half marathon all-time list

1:03:44 Yalemzerf Yehualaw (ETH) Larne 2021
1:04:02 Ruth Chepngetich (KEN) Istanbul 2021
1:04:31 Ababel Yeshaneh (ETH) Ras Al Khaimah 2020
1:04:49 Brigid Kosgei (KEN) Ras Al Khaimah 2020
1:04:51 Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) Valencia 2017
1:04:51 Hellen Obiri (KEN) Istanbul 2021
1:04:52 Fancy Chemutai (KEN) Ras Al Khaimah 2018
1:04:55 Mary Keitany (KEN) Ras Al Khaimah 2018
1:05:04 Joan Melly (KEN) Prague 2018
1:05:06 Peres Jepchirchir (KEN) Ras Al Khaimah 2017

Yalemzerf Yehualaw’s progression

(half marathon)
2019: 1:06:01
2020: 1:04:46
2021: 1:03:44

Source: keirradnedge.com/

Arab countries earned five gold medals at Olympics

Nine Arab countries won medals at the Tokyo Olympic Games, which ended this Sunday (8). They took home gold for Qatar, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco.

São Paulo – The Arab countries that competed in the Tokyo Olympics earned five gold medals, five silver, and eight bronze, in a total of 18, according to the competition’s official table. The accomplishments came from Qatar, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Syria. The schedule was started officially on July 23 and ended this Sunday (8).

Qatar was the top-ranked Arab country in the games, with three medals, including two gold and one bronze. They were the first two Olympic gold medals in Qatar’s history. Athlete Fares Ibrahim El-Bakh won gold in men’s 96kg weightlifting and Mutaz Essa Barshim in the high jump.

Qatar’s bronze medal came from men’s beach volleyball. On Friday (6), Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan defeated the Latvian duo Martin Plavins and Edgar Tocs. The performance of the Qatari team was astonishing. The Latvians had eliminated the Brazilian duo Alison and Álvaro from the competition.

The second best-placed Arab country in Tokyo was Egypt, with six medals, one gold, one silver, and four bronze. The Egyptian gold came from women’s Karate Kumite, with athlete Feryal Abdelaziz , in the over 61 kg category. Ahmed Elgendy won silver in the modern pentathlon. Giana Lotfy won bronze in women’s under 61kg Kumite, Seif Eissa in men’s 80 kg taekwondo, Hedaya Malak in women’s 67 kg taekwondo, and Mohamed Ibrahim Elsayed in men’s 67 kg wrestling. Egypt was ranked 54th in the games.

Tunisia was the third best-ranked Arab country in Tokyo, in 58th. The country earned two medals, one gold, and one silver. The gold came from Ahmed Hafnaoui, in men’s 400 m freestyle swimming. Athlete Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi earned silver for Tunisia in men’s 58 kg taekwondo.

Morocco came 63rd with a gold medal in men’s 3,000 m hurdles in athletics by Soufiane El Bakkali. Jordan took 74th place with one silver by Saleh Elsharabaty in men’s 80 kg taekwondo and a bronze by Abdel Rahman Almasatfa in men’s 67 kg Kumite.

Bahrain finished 77th with one silver by Kalkidan Gezahegne in women’s 10,000 m athletics. Saudi Arabia reached the same position as Bahrain, with a silver medal from Tareq Hamedi in men’s over 75kg Kumite.

Kuwait came 86th, with a bronze from Abdullah Alrashidi in men’s shooting. Syria, also in 86th place, earned a bronze medal with athlete Man Asaad in men’s over 109kg weightlifting.

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