Sports minister Ababu Namwamba on Saturday commissioned construction works of the Lornah Kiplagat Sports Academy in Iten.
The high altitude girls-only facility, founded by multiple distance running champion Lornah Kiplagat, is the second individually owned track in the world and will feature a 400-meter all-weather tartan track.
The only other individually-owned tartan track of this nature was recently completed in Addis Ababa by Ethiopian distance running legend Kenenisa Bekele. Usain Bolt also owns a track in Jamaica, although through a project by his sponsors, sportswear firm Puma.
The project is aimed at changing the lives of girls in the area rich in athletics talent and will be the first individually-owned athletics track in the country. The sports academy which is being built on a 50-acre piece of land along the Eldoret-Iten road is expected to be functional in April.
Kiplagat said the project was her way of giving back to the community where she grew up. “For 15 years, I have dreamt of changing the lives of the young girls in Iten to enable them succeed academically and to become athletics stars globally like me,” said Kiplagat.
Kiplagat, who was born and bred in Iten, said athletes in the area have had difficulties training during rainy seasons as training grounds turn muddy, making them incur injuries and stagnating their careers. “The tartan track will enable athletes to train all year and this will enable them prepare adequately for races,” added Kiplagat.
The project worth Sh1 billion will feature a fully-equipped sports stadium with volleyball, tennis, basketball and hockey courts. Classrooms will be constructed later after completion of the tartan track.
Athletics Kenya President, Isaiah Kiplagat thanked Kiplagat and her husband, Dutchman Pieter Langerhorst whom Lornah said has always been on the forefront on the realization of the project. “Coming up with such a costly project takes a large heart, and love for sports. The Athletics Kenya as a whole will accord this foundation the support it deserves,” said the AK chief.
The minister said the government would provide all the necessary support to Kiplagat’s noble project.
“It is so encouraging seeing an individual giving back to the community by providing such an expensive amenity. I will personally see to it that the government provides support,” said Namwamba.
Namwamba also said the ministry was fully supportive of athletics, adding the sport has marketed Kenya abroad for long and that the government was keen on maintaining this. He said one of the ways of realizing this will be the refurbishment of Eldoret’s Kipchoge Keino Stadium.
“The rehabilitation of the Kipchoge Keino Stadium and laying of the tartan track will be complete in mid March. I will help speed up the process of clearing of the tartan which has arrived at the Port of Mombasa,” said Namwamba.
World 800m record holder and Olympic champion David Lekuta Rudisha, 2009 World Championships 5000m gold medalist Vivian Cheruiyot and 2001 and 2002 World Cross-country Junior champion Viola Kibiwott were among athletes who attended.