Peter Njenga, one of Kenya’s most knowledgeable track and field writers, vividly recalls the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games track and field trials held at Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi.
This especially because of the 5,000 metres race where a barefoot 12-year-old runner from Kisii blasted off from the starter’s gun and stuck like a leech onto the coat-tails of soon-to-be-crowned Olympic champion in that race, John Ngugi.
Philip Mosima, a Standard Six pupil at Kisii’s Amasabo Primary School, had impressed at the Nyanza provincial championships and was invited to the trials as a guest runner.
Mosima would have the crowd on its feet when he dominated the early exchanges with seniors Ngugi and Co.
Harambee hurriedly arranged
“I remember I was one of six athletes who finished the 5,000 metres race at the Nyanza championships and was given entry into the Olympic trials as part of the Nyanza team, as a guest,” Mosima recalled on Friday.
A harambee (fundraising) was hurriedly arranged after the race with Olympic legend Kipchoge Keino donating Sh5,000 – a lot of money then, even now!
Mosima used the money to complete his primary school education and start his secondary school studies.
At 35, the former two-time world junior cross country champion (1993, 1994) is back in Nairobi, seeking to revive his injury-hit athletics career when he lines up against the current crop of Kenyan stars – some half his age – at the KCB Kenya National Cross Country Championships on Saturday.
Mosima caused a sensation last month when he declared himself fit again, and finished second overall at the Nyanza South championships despite taking a bad fall just 100 metres after the start of the race at the Kisii Sports Club’s golf course.
Strong Kenya Prisons team
Drawn alongside him at Uhuru Gardens on Saturday morning will be a stellar cast that includes Mathew Kisorio of Kenya Police, second at last year’s nationals, and a strong Kenya Defence Forces team that features former World Military Games 5,000m and 10,000m champion Mark Kiptoo, Vincent Kiprop, William Chebon, Michael Chege and Leonard Oloitiptip.
Africa champion John Mwangangi heads a strong Kenya Prisons team that will however be without defending national cross country champion Geoffrey Mutai, who is away in the United Arab Emirates where he competed at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon race won by Dennis Koech on Friday.
After completing his primary school education at Amasabo, Mosima went to Kebirigo Secondary School, then headed by the athletics-mad principal Shem Omasire.
Went to Europe
“But when Omasire died, I went to Kisii High School for one year and then to Kiomiti Secondary School where I did my ‘O’ Levels in 2004,” recalls Mosima, who on Friday wound up his training at the Nairobi West Prisons ground for the nationals.
Mosima went to Europe the same year, under the management of Briton Kim McDonald, before joining Jos Hermens’ stable in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
“I ran under Jos until 1996 when I had an accident that put me out of action until late 1997,” Mosima revisited, “but I continued to run in the Netherlands until 2003 when I went to Japan.”
While in the Netherlands, Mosima, a former world junior record holder in the 3,000m and 5,000m, dominated Dutch road running.
He won the country’s top road races and track meets, including the Zevenheuvelenloop (15km), Dam tot Damloop (10 miles) and Parelloop (10km) road races.
He then joined the Hitachi Cable team in Japan in 2004 under the tutelage of Kenyan-born Japanese manager Stephen Mayaka, who will be at Saturday’s nationals to monitor his student’s comeback.
“Mosima has talked to me about his possible return to Japan and we have to just wait and see how he runs,” Mayaka said yesterday.
Mosima says his body feels great.
“In November I started training and my body felt great, that’s why I said ‘why not?’ and decided to give it another try. I want to make some money while my body feels good,” Mosima, who has a 5,000m personal best of 12:53.72, added.
Mosima is married with two boys – Ronaldinho Nyaribo and Eto’o Mosima Nyaribo – which speaks volumes about his love for football. “I used to be a big Barcelona fan, then, but not now,” he confirms.
In the women’s race on Saturday, Kenya Police will field a strong team led by World 5,000m silver medallist Sylvia Kibet and former world junior cross country champion Mercy Cherono.
They will do battle with Sammary Cherotich of the High Performance Training Centre and Commonwealth 10,000m champion Doris Changeiywo of KDF, among other top entries.
Faith Chepngetich, the world junior cross country champion, will line up in the junior women’s race with the top six athletes across the line qualifying for next month’s Africa Cross Country Championships in Cape Town.
However, Mosima will no doubt provide the day’s biggest talking point.