In the midst of the irritating din of unending political supremacy battles, Eliud Kipchoge again helped sanitise Kenya’s image globally by winning the eagerly-anticipated BMW Berlin Marathon on Sunday in yet another fast time.
His win in the German political capital received a good share of media coverage on a day Germany also held its parliamentary elections that swept veteran chancellor Angela Merkel back for a fourth term in office, despite her influence in the Bundestag being violently shaken by the arrival, for the first time since the second world war, of far-right party, AfD (Alternative for Germany).
No sooner had Kipchoge crossed the Brandenburg Gate to win Sunday’s race in two hours, three minutes and 32 seconds, than the branding at sportswear giant Nike’s Berlin flagship store at the Europa Centre, Tauentzienstrasse 9, changed, screaming congratulatory messages for the Kenyan star.
Kipchoge is sponsored by Nike, and his win spurred a flurry of activity at the Nike outlets with running enthusiasts eager to buy a pair of Nike Zoom Fly sneakers, similar to the Nike Zoom Vapor Elite type Kipchoge has used in his last two marathons.
“2:03:32 - Congratulations Eliud Kipchoge” read the branding on all Nike shops to celebrate the man from Nandi County’s latest success that comes hot on the heels of his 2:00:25 run at Nike’s “Breaking2” project in Monza, Italy, where he fell just 26 seconds short of becoming the first human being to run the marathon in under two hours.
Single-handedly, Kipchoge has lifted Kenya’s name and image at a time our politicians and other ne’er do wells in society, like our sports ministry officials and football authorities, continue to drug Kenya into murky waters.
He is now Nike’s main man, up there among the sportswear giant’s collection of elite stars that include top footballers Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, basketball stars Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and tennis aces Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Against the backdrop of the pain of losing Africa Nations Championships hosting rights because of the ministry’s recalcitrance and Jubilee government’s indifferent attitude towards sports, Kipchoge helped save face for Kenyan sport.
Over the next weeks, the Olympic marathon champion will be on a whistle-stop Nike promotional tour of the world which, I reliably learn, will culminate in a talk at the famous University of Oxford. Because he defied science by running the marathon in 2:00:25.
“Before Monza, scientists spent time in the lab and concluded that man will only run under 2:00 in the marathon in 2075,” Kipchoge, on the threshold of legendary status, said after Sunday’s race.
“Then they said the human being can only run 2:00 in 2055, and I proved them wrong.
“I even have a friend in India who said he will die before someone runs 2:00, which I did in Monza.”
It’s comforting to note that Kenya Tourism Board has, finally, shown interest in using our athletes to market Kenya as a tourist destination, even signing up former world marathon record holder Wilson Kipsang as an ambassador at the Berlin Marathon where the Tokyo Marathon champion, sadly, wilted after 30 kilometres with cramps brought bout by the wet race conditions.
Isuzu East Africa also did well to sign up Kipchoge and offer him a good contract to market their pick-up, one unit of which was bought by an athlete at Sunday’s special viewing of the Berlin race organized by the Bank of Africa and supported by Isuzu in Eldoret.
Such endorsements are fitting rewards for Kenya’s athletes who tirelessly make us “proudly Kenyan” through their accomplishments across the globe.
Last weekend alone, Kenyans featuring on the podium at various global competitions, with Gladys Cherono (2:20:23) reclaiming her Berlin title with victory alongside Kipchoge on Sunday with Valery Aiyabei (2:20:53) third.
Wilson Too won the Le Lion Half Marathon in Belfort, France, in a personal best 60:00:58 with Francis Muendo (2:24:44) and Caroline Kiptoo (2:42:44) triumphant in Mexico’s difficult Leon Marathon as Elijah Kiptoo (28:20) and Dorcas Jepchumba (32:14) completed a Kenyan double at the Admiral Swansea Bay 10-kilometre race in Wales.
In USA, the Quad Cities Marathon had a Kenyan winner, Hillary Too (2:21:40) while on the track, Kenyan athletes also shone at the Japanese Corporate Championships in Osaka, with Jonathan Ndiku (13:24:07) and Rosemary Wanjiru (15:09:68) claiming the men’s and women’s 5,000 metres titles.
These are the heroes and heroines of Kenya who continuously keep our global image afloat even when the chaos by our politicians and serially blundering, inept state officials keep dragging us down.
It is bizarre that while the “githeri man” was pampered and excessively celebrated for merely standing in line to vote, like millions of other Kenyans did, Kipchoge will most probably fly back home incognito, save for the traditional, celebratory mursik he will be offered by relatives on arrival.
We continue to get our priorities wrong in management of Kenyan sport, yet successive administrations keep treating the sports ministry as a “lesser” portfolio set aside to reward loyal party officials with state jobs.