News & Updates

22 April 2021 • High Performance

Athletics NZ statement on 2021 World Athletics U20 Championships

Athletics NZ has determined that it will not be sending a team to the 2021 World Athletics U20 Championships, Nairobi, Kenya, which are currently scheduled for 17-22 August 2021.  Athletes who have previously submitted an Application for Selection Form for this competition will be contacted directly.

This decision has not been reached lightly – recognising the impact that it will have on our young athletes’ opportunities to compete internationally – and comes after a detailed review and consideration of all relevant factors by Athletics NZ’s board and senior management team, including but not limited to the following factors:


There is a heightened risk of terrorism throughout Kenya at present, including an ongoing threat based on credible information indicating that Westerners may be targeted by extremists in the Nairobi area. The NZ Consulate in Kenya has advised Athletics NZ against hiring a security escort for our team as, according to their expertise, the presence of security details can make a group stand out and therefore become a potential target. World Athletics has not yet announced its security protocols for this competition, so Athletics NZ is unaware what local security may be provided, if any, to address this risk.


The New Zealand Government has advised that it will not consider an Athletics NZ team travelling to the 2021 World Athletics U20 Championships for early vaccination.  Nairobi is currently in a Covid-19 related lockdown until further notice.  This relates to a third wave of Covid-19 cases that is putting a heavy strain on hospitals and ICU facilities in Nairobi. Should an athlete or member of the management and coaching team catch Covid-19 while in Nairobi, it would not only be a major health risk to the individual (i.e., we have very limited assurance that we would be able to obtain appropriate medical care) but also to the wider team members.    

In addition, any athlete, coach or management team member falling ill could find themselves unable to travel back to New Zealand or their country of residence for an undetermined amount of time and face considerably increased costs, with no insurance cover for the potentially significant expenses that may result from this, including delays in rescheduling any NZ MIQ slot due to travel delays.


When taking into consideration the current situation in Nairobi, including security risks, the open ended current Covid-19 lockdown and high and increasing case numbers, as well as NZ Government advice not to travel to Kenya, Athletics NZ has been advised by its insurance brokers that we cannot be guaranteed insurance cover for the team, management or coaches travelling to this event.

Alternative competitions

Athletics NZ is cognizant of the impact on our young athletes of not being able to compete at this year’s World U20 Championships should they go ahead in Nairobi as currently planned.  In an effort to provide our U20 athletes with alternatives, the Athletics NZ team, led by Tim Driesen (High Performance Athlete Development Lead) and Brianna Maynard (High Performance Programme Administrator), are liaising with Athletics Australia to seek to provide alternative competition opportunities for athletes in the U20 age group and other young NZ athletes (e.g. athletes that met the qualification requirements for selection for 2021 World University Games team). Further details of these opportunities will be posted on our website as soon as additional information is available.

Please contact Brianna Maynard for questions.