Russia's Yuriy Borzakovskiy (left) and Wilson Kipketer (right) compete in a light-hearted hurdles race during the Kids' Athletics programme ©Getty Images

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has hosted a high profile two-hour demonstration of its Nestlé Kids’ Athletics grassroots development programme, one of the biggest of its kind in the world of sport, here. 

IAAF President Lamine Diack and two 800 metres running greats acting as IAAF Ambassadors, Denmark’s three-time world champion Wilson Kipketer and Russia’s Athens 2004 Olympic gold medallist Yuriy Borzakovskiy, were on hand to welcome the young participants.

The event also attracted the presence of three other distinguished athletes - Romania's Gabriela Szabo, 5,000m gold medallist at Sydney 2000, as well as Russia's Tatyana Lebedeva and Japan's Koji Murofushi, gold medallists in the long jump and hammer throw respectively at Athens 2004 - and the newly-elected President of European Athletics, Norway's Svein Arne Hansen.

Six teams of 12-year-old children, drawn from schools in Sochi, took part in a series of activities, covering the core skills of athletics - running, jumping and throwing.

A dozen athletics coaches directed them through the programme, which was organised by the IAAF Regional Development centre in Moscow, its director Vadim Zelichenok, and Gϋnter Lange from the IAAF development department.

Kipketer, Borzakovskiy and Diack, a former long jumper, began proceedings by talking to the children about their own experiences as athletes, and what had motivated them to take up athletics and continue to pursue a healthy lifestyle after retiring from competition.

They signed autographs and helped to distribute tee-shirts, certificates and colourful Kid Athletics wristbands.

Children took part in a series of activities covering the core skills of athletics
Children took part in a series of activities covering the core skills of athletics ©Getty Images for IAAF

The event came to a climax with a light-hearted hurdles race between Kipketer and Borzakovskiy, who remain the two fastest ever athletes over 800m when run indoors.

It was a near dead heat as Kipketer, who only arrived in Sochi a few hours before, claimed a narrow victory over his counterpart.

Founded in 2005, Kids’ Athletics is a worldwide sports development programme, which aspires to make athletics the number one physical activity in schools, promote a balanced and healthy lifestyle, and attract the potential sports stars of tomorrow.

It has so far been activated in more than 120 of the IAAF’s 214 National Federations worldwide.

Nestlé, which claims to be the world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company with 339,000 employees worldwide, became the main sponsor of Kids’ Athletics in January 2012 agreeing a five-year sponsorship with the IAAF.

Meanwhile, Athletics for a Better World, the IAAF’s community investment programme, has announced a partnership with the International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) aiming to change the lives of young people through sports.

Kipketer and fellow former Olympians, Jackie Joyner-Kersee of the United States and Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain, are among the ambassadors of the programme, which seeks to develop training plans and fitness programmes to help professional and recreational gamers alike perform at the highest levels.

The IeSF claims to offer Athletics for a Better World opportunities to engage more people through sport, particularly millennials around the globe who play and watch e-sports.

Nick Davies (left), IAAF deputy general secretary and communications director, and Alex Lim (right), general manager of international relations at the IeSF, outside the Sochi ExpoCentre
Nick Davies (left), IAAF deputy general secretary and communications director, and Alex Lim (right), general manager of international relations at the IeSF, outside the Sochi ExpoCentre ©Havas Sports & Entertainment

“As the number one Olympic sport we are always looking at new ways and new means of technology to help engage young people and encourage them to take up athletics,” said Nick Davies, IAAF deputy general secretary and communications director.

“E-sports is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and we’re delighted to become the first governing body to partner with the IeSF.

“We look forward to a prosperous relationship and can’t wait to start working on new and exciting opportunities together.”

Athletics for a Better World and the IeSF are discussing plans for the future of their partnership including live demonstration workshops with some of the world’s top professional gamers, as well as Olympic athletes who have expressed a love of computer games, such as American hurdler Aries Merritt, Jamaican sprinter Warren Weir and United States triple jumper Christian Taylor.

Athletics for a Better World was launched by the IAAF in April 2014, as a new social responsibility programme that uses the universality of athletics to make a positive difference in the world.

The IeSF was founded in 2008 to accommodate the growing popularity of e-sports worldwide and hosts the e-Sports World Championship, and other competitions.

It establishes competition standardisation and aims to increase its membership, which currently comprises 43 nations.

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