Vivian and Kenya’s elite athletes have done us proud:
The last few days have witnessed ugly scenes in Kenya stemming out of the controversial repeat presidential election that saw the electoral commission hand Uhuru Kenyatta a second term in office.
Sadly, lives were lost, all in the name of political supremacy battles whose effects reverberated across into the sporting world, highlighted by the cancellation of the increasingly popular Safari Sevens rugby tournament and the stripping of Kenya’s rights to host the glamourless but nonetheless important 2018 Africa Nations Championships football competition.
But as Kenya’s image takes a battering globally, thanks to the endless, largely selfish political chest-thumping, our gallant athletes continue to mitigate against this negative exposure by winning various races globally, the most publicised being Olympic champion Vivian Cheruiyot’s victory in Sunday’s Frankfurt Marathon, her first triumph over the 42-kilometre distance on her second attempt.
Cheruiyot’s winning time of two hours, 23 minutes and 35 seconds was just over two and a half minutes outside Ethiopian Meselech Melkamu’s Frankfurt course record (2:21:01), but nonetheless 15 seconds better than the Kenyan Olympic 5,000 metres champion’s previous marathon personal best time clocked on her debut in London last April.
Across the globe last weekend, Kenyan athletes also shone in Marseille where Edith Chelimo won the Marseille Cassis 20-kilometre race in 65:58 while in Slovenia, it was a Kenyan double with Marius Kimutai (2:08:33) taking the Ljubljana Marathon men’s title and Purity Jebichii winning the women’s race in a course record 2:27:52.
That was not all for the weekend.
In South Korea, the experienced Luke Kanda (2:06:15) was the runaway winner in the Chuncheon Marathon in a course record time, with Evans Kipkoech taking the Casablanca Marathon title in 2:09:39 and Bernard Rotich (2:15:53) triumphant in the Dublin Marathon.
Winfridah Moseti (69:41) and James Mburugu (62:12) were top in the Arezzo Half Marathon in France, Peninah Jepkoech (3:07:54) was top in Indonesia’s tough Jakarta Marathon while Bernard Sang (29:12) and Esther Chesang were winners in the Kocaeli 10-kilometre road race in Turkey.
It is these worldwide triumphs, along with the sobriety of peace-keeping, honest and hard-working Kenyans, that make ours a great nation.
No wonder both President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, along with Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, were quick to pay tribute to Cheruiyot in their weekend tweets.
“You have done us proud Vivian Cheruiyot for winning the #frankfurtmarathon,” the president tweeted, while, among others, his deputy Ruto said: “Vivian Cheruiyot sets a new personal best time on her way to winning the Frankfurt Marathon. A sterling effort.”
“Congratulations @VivianCheruiyot! Your win is a win for Kenya!” chipped in Governor Sonko.
Kenya will continue to earn respect thanks to our athletes at this Sunday’s New York Marathon where Mary Keitany will be chasing an unprecedented fourth title with the elite men’s field including former world record holder Wilson Kipsang and world cross country and half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor.
Last weekend’s athletics triumphs come hot on the heels of Joyciline Jepkosgei’s latest world half marathon record, a brilliant 64:51 in Valencia just over a week ago, and will continue making us proud to be Kenyan.
Hopefully, soon, the political din will subside to a diminuendo, and it is these gallant athletes who will play a key role in helping the country gain traction, not only via ploughing in tidy sums in much-needed foreign exchange into the country, but also by playing the role of public relations agents.
Their positive influence will help increase bookings in our customer-starved beach hotels and under-booked flights.
For the umpteenth time, it doesn’t hurt urging the Kenya Tourism Board and tourism ministry to use these athletes more in their efforts to push the tourism numbers higher.
They help clean up the political mess. Congratulations Vivian and co.