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Ott Tänak at WRC Rally Kenya. Source: Hyundai Motorsport

 

Ott Tänak's Hyundai WRC team has been reflecting on another disappointing weekend, after the WRC Safari Rally Kenya – though Tänak himself provided the consolation, making his second podium appearance of the season, and the first since February.

Tänak said post-race that: "On the one hand, it's good to be back on the podium and take the maximum points from the points test, but it's been another difficult weekend for the team."

The Estonian, 33, from Saaremaa, who was WRC champion for Toyota in 2019, said that the Kenya rally brought with it specific challenges which meant he could not go all out at all times, lest it backfired.

"I put on 50-60 percent of myself so as not to make mistakes and so as to drive as smoothly as possible. Friday was demanding – as the safari rally should be – and it was the same again this morning," he continued, via a Hyundai press release.

Those demands included the technical – at one point Tänak had to spend a minute-and-a-half manually cleaning the windshield after the wiper on his side of the car packed up – and the environmental, as local wildlife including Zebra, baboons, gazelles, giraffes and others came near or actually on to the track, causing many of the competing drivers, including Tänak, to have to hit the brakes.

More than that, Hyundai had been in the lead going into Sunday, via Belgian Thierry Neuville, but rear suspension failure ended his race prematurely, though it did promote Tänak into a podium position. Spanish driver Dani Sordo also had problems in his Hyundai i20 on the opening day of the event.

"It's a pity that things didn't work out for Thierry this weekend. We're heading back to Estonia now, for my home rally, which should be nice," Tänak added.

The second-ever full WRC Rally Estonia runs July 15-18.

The third-place was his second podium finish this season, after winning the Arctic Rally in Finnish Lapland back in late February.

Tänak, who lies fourth in the driver's table, and co-driver Martin Järveoja, failed to make the top three after that, in Croatia, Portugal and Sardinia.

The race was won by veteran, six-time world champion and current table leader Sebastien Ogier (France, Toyota), with his teammate Takamoto Katsuta of Japan putting in a career-best second.

Hyundai boss Adriano Adamo was in characteristically uncompromising mode after the weekend.

He said: "We can't be satisfied. This is the third rally in a row where we have had problems. So we can't put it down to bad luck. No excuses, this just shouldn't happen."

"We need to understand what's been going on ... We've improved the speed [on last year], but we lack reliability and we need to understand why. It's just not acceptable," the Italian went on.

Ott Tänak was at least impressed with the race itself, making a return to the WRC calendar after a near 20-year absence.

Tänak said: "This race has impressed and has brought something different, offering unique pleasure - such as Friday's 'fesh-fesh', which is challenging, but is like an adventure."

Fesh-fesh is a particular type of fine sand or dust which at a glance looks like it provides a hard surface, but upon driving on it reveals qualities more similar to soft mud. - Andrew Whyte, ERR News

The Ugandan Olympic team while being flagged off in Kampala. Photo The Observer

 

One member of the first batch of Uganda's athletes' team has tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Japan for a one-month camp training. 

The team of nine people including three boxers, one weight lifter, and one swimmer plus coaches and officials was flagged off on Thursday by Sports minister designate Hamson Obua for their one-month spell in Japan ahead of the Olympic games in July.

However, after arrival in Japan on Saturday, one of the members tested positive for coronavirus disease and is currently being kept in Japan’s designated isolation facility while the other members of the Ugandan team traveled to Osaka, western Japan, where they will train ahead of the games.

Hidemasa Nakamura, the Tokyo 2020 Games delivery officer, while talking to reporters also made it clear that the person had been isolated. 

“I heard the person has been isolated based on regulations,” said Nakamura.

While flagging off the athletes, Beatrice Ayikoru, the chief of mission for Tokyo made it clear that all athletes had been vaccinated and tested twice before leaving. She also said they have been in isolation for two weeks. 

The team wanted to start gearing up for the games at their training camp, however, this means that their preparations suffered a setback. This comes at a time when the NCS Dr. Bernard Patrick Ogwel had told sports federations to appreciate the realities of the times and adhere to the standard operating procedures, that the national team players should be secluded from the public to prevent them from getting the virus.

This is the fourth similar COVID-19 incident to happen for a Ugandan contingent, and three Uganda national teams have been withdrawn from international competitions accordingly after members of these members tested positive for COVID-19 on the eve of the kick-off of the competitions.

These include the National Basketball team, Women Cricket and lately the Uganda Rugby Sevens team that was withdrawn from Olympic qualifiers in France. 

The second batch of Uganda Olympians is scheduled to travel on the 29th and 30th of this month. According to Ayikoru the team will comprise of the middle distance runners from the athletics discipline. - URN/The Observer

 

By PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta has sent a message of condolence to the family, friends and relatives of celebrated rugby coach Benjamin Ayimba who passed away on Friday night at a Nairobi hospital.

The President mourned the departed sportsman as a Kenyan great and an icon of rugby saying Ayimba had inspired a generation of Kenyans to take up and excel in rugby. 

“It is a sad day in the history of Kenyan sports having lost Benjamin. From his exploits on the field as as a rugby player and on the touch line as a coach, Benjamin inspired a generation of young Kenyans to take up and excel as rugby players. He was truly a national rugby icon," the President eulogised.

“As a nation, we will forever be grateful for his great contribution to Kenya’s sports especially for the many accolades he earned the country over the years," the President added.

President Kenyatta recalled the late athlete's successes in rugby saying his most outstanding memory, as a rugby fan, was in 2016 when Kenya, coached by Ayimba, lifted the World Rugby Sevens Series main cup in Singapore after beating heavyweights Fiji. 

He pointed out that the late Ayimba helped lift Kenya's rugby from national obscurity to international stardom, positioning the country on the global map as one of the world's emerging rugby nations.

“Besides earning Kenya accolades and global recognition as a rugby nation, Benjamin and his generation of players and coaches helped grow Kenya's brand abroad benefiting sectors such as tourism, hospitality and aviation," the President noted.

President Kenyatta prayed to God to give the family of the departed Kenyan hero strength and fortitude during this difficult period of mourning.

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