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Ex-athlete turns American dream into Kenyan reality

Wednesday February 29 2012

MOHAMMED AMIN | NATION US-based athletics coach Sammy Nyamongo (left) at intervals training with Evans Nyakundi Magari at Ngong on February 27, 2012. Nyamongo is in Kenya to train financially-constrained upcoming athletes.

MOHAMMED AMIN | NATION US-based athletics coach Sammy Nyamongo (left) at intervals training with Evans Nyakundi Magari at Ngong on February 27, 2012. Nyamongo is in Kenya to train financially-constrained upcoming athletes. 

By By ELIAS MAKORI [email protected]

Just over 20 years ago, Sammy Nyamongo left Kenya to chase ‘The American Dream’.

He had attracted a lot of attention after outrunning Yobes Ondieki’s cross-country record at Sameta High School.

Naturally, anyone outshining Yobes, the first human being to run a sub-27-minute 10,000 metres, is worth noting.

Nyamongo is also an old boy of Karantini Primary School in Kitutu Masaba and a Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology alumnus.

And in the middle of his studies in the US where he earned his Business Management and Computer Information Technology bachelor’s degrees at Life University, Nyamongo won numerous road races and marathons on the American circuit.

He would later attend sports clinics and holds a Level Two coaching certificate from United States Track and Field.

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A lot of talent

“I felt now that my running career is over I needed to come back home and use my skills to train athletes and expose them to the American circuit and other international races,” Nyamongo, 37, said at Kibiko in Ngong on Monday after taking a group of about 10 upcoming athletes through a morning training session.

“There is so much talent in Kenya that really deserves being hoisted to another stage and that’s why I’ve temporarily relocated to Kenya.”

Among Nyamongo’s charges is Evans Nyakundi Magari, a 1,500m runner whose dream has always been to break into the international circuit.

Nyakundi said: “Sammy has inspired us with his coaching and management and this has given us good motivation.”

Before shifting his base to the US, Nyamongo trained in Kibiko with a strong Moi Air Base team that included the likes of Josphat Machuka, Lazarus Nyakeraka, Phillip Mosima, Hezron Mokamba and David Maina of then Sports Mark Athletics Club run by Robert Ouko, a member of Kenya’s 1972 Olympic 4x400m gold medal-winning quartet.

“I also participated in a few junior road races in Japan in 1992 and 1995 and represented Kenya at the World University Games in Fukuoka where I finished fourth in both the 1,500 and 5,000 (metres races),” Nyamongo recalled.

All-American champion

It was after his competing at the Japan championships that Nyamongo won a scholarship to study in the US where he was a 30-time all-American champion in several races. They included the 1,500m (three minutes and 39 seconds), 3,000m indoors (7:46), 5,000m (13:24) and 10,000m (28:28).

Nyamongo, who lived in Atlanta, Georgia, from 1996 to 2009 and Denver, Colorado (2009-2010), has launched a running club, Sonirunners, based in his Matasia farm.

Some of the club’s athletes are Lilian Chepkemoi, Celestine Temko, Dominic Kombo Mangere, Evans Nyakundi Magari, Thomas Omwenga Nyakundi, Syclosintia Bonareri Nyarandi and Kevin Onditi Simion.

“I visualise a very strong team locally and internationally and I want to emulate my mentor Ouko, in whose club I rose from,” added Nyamongo.

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