Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Disabled athletes keen to win gold for Kenya yet again

Samuel Muchai (centre), his guide James Boit (left) and other athletes train at Mosoriot Teachers College in Nandi. Fifteen athletes leave on Thursday for Antalya, Turkey, for the Visually Impaired World Championships. Photo/JARED NYATAYA (Eldoret).

Samuel Muchai (centre), his guide James Boit (left) and other athletes train at Mosoriot Teachers College in Nandi. Fifteen athletes leave on Thursday for Antalya, Turkey, for the Visually Impaired World Championships. Photo/JARED NYATAYA (Eldoret).  

By JONATHAN KOMEN jkomen@ke.nationmedia.com

From one end of the training pitch to the other, they ran. Briskly under the keen help of guides, their hands tied onto theirs. For they can’t see.

Their trainers skilfully issued tips, one track after the other. For that, keen onlookers flocked the rather quiet atmosphere of Mosoriot Teachers Training College in Nandi to witness a special training they believe will put Kenya’s name on the world athletes map, yet again.

A group of 15 special athletes, with visual difficulties, staged their final training ahead of their departure to a key competition in Turkey on Thursday.

At the end of the training, one visually impaired runner Samuel Muchai said he was confident he would prove the theory that disability is not inability right, when he leads the Kenyan charge to the Fourth International Blind Sports Association (Ibsa) World Championships and Games in Antalya, Turkey, starting Friday.

Muchai, the 2008 Beijing Paralympics 1500m silver medallist eyes a gold medal in his T11 cadre in the Turkey’s Southern City. (The cadre T11 is for those totally unable to see.)

He also has the 2007 All Africa Games 1,500m gold and World Paralympic Championships silver medals tucked to his trophy cabinet.

“Despite the challenges that we encounter over our disability, I will strive to bring home two gold medals for the first time at the world championships,” he said of his determination to excel.

“While we train on the roads, we sometimes tumble into potholes and stones, but I believe such experiences only harden us.”

He wants the Paralympics team to match the athletics team that bagged the overall title at the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain, a fortnight ago.

Of the 15 runners who will travel to the Turkey’s southern city, more than 10 of them are already successful athletes in Eldoret.

Anne Ng’endo, another jewel in the visually impaired world of sports, has cut a niche for herself in global shows and wants to go one better in Turkey.

Ng’endo, the Beijing Olympics long jump finalist, said: “I have put my fortunes in field events, and 200 metres race but athletes from Jamaica, USA and Nigeria beat me.”

“I will now shift focus to 800 metres in which Kenyan runners perform better as I prepare for next year’s London Olympic Games.”

Athletes will use the Turkey show piece to attain qualifying marks for the London Olympics, one of the biggest sporting events in the world.

Joseph Lomong, who has represented Kenya in Paralympics competition since 1995, said their five-day training camp in Mosoriot had prepared them adequately.

“We must now be ready to battle the world,” he said.

“But we should know that athletes around the world have taken up Paralympics in high numbers unlike before.”

He called on the team to remain confident and have the determination to emerge winners.

He called on the government to support the team fully so as to boost its morale saying Paralympians — who get little appreciation from government kitty — need an equal share.

The teams’ coach Mr Albert Korir said the team of 15 comprises four guide runners for the T11 class.

The other class, T12, is for the partially blind. All of them are in great shape to bite the dust in Turkey from tomorrow to April 11, he said.

Around 2,500 athletes from 64 countries are expected to participate in the games. Similar events have been successfully staged in Madrid (Spain) in 1998, Quebec (Canada) in 2003 and Sao Paulo (Brazil) in 2007.

The one in Turkey will be hosted by the Turkish Blind Sports Federation and will be the biggest ever.

It will feature eight sports in athletics, swimming, football, power lifting, Judo and chess all in different categories.

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