Although he expected little from the world’s biggest disability sports showdown, James Boit was surprised to exceed his target.
He boarded a plane for the first time and returned home a millionaire — after ripping the tracks at the just concluded London Paralympic Games.
The 28-year-old Boit guided Samwel Mushai to gold medal in 1,500 metres T11 (class for 100 per cent visual impaired) final in a sizzling three minutes, 58.37 seconds world record mark.
And as the guide, Boit on Tuesday received Sh2 million from Safaricom Limited CEO Mr Bob Colleymore. More goodies are on his way, thanks to pledges from the government and other sponsors, gifts he totally did not expect to get after his decision to support Mushai.
Boit is not your typical Kenyan runner, who usually has lofty athletic-dreams for huge exploits.
He loves and befriends athletes with visual impairment. That has now paid hefty returns.
Boit, a firstborn in a family of 10, was beaming with happiness after he received the pay award news: “I feel very excited. I knew I could be paid for guiding Mushai, but not that much. I only expected a token of appreciation from the government.”
“This is a sign of blessings. As a firstborn, we (in Kalenjin culture) have the obligation to open up avenues for our younger siblings and I hope the London proceeds is a perfect one,” Boit told the Nation in a telephone interview.
The athlete from Cheboror Village in Burnt Forest, Uasin Gishu County, said he would use the money to educate his siblings.
“I did not proceed to secondary school since my parents could not afford to raise my school fees. But I will ensure my brothers and sisters realise it. This is the only gift I can give them, for now,” he said.
Boit discontinued schooling after completing Standard Eight at Chereber Primary in Burnt Forest in 2000.
Earlier on, Boit trained with triple Paralympics winner Henry Kiprono Kirwa alongside Mushai in Eldoret and has always made clear that he loves them passionately.
“After a brief study on these athletes, I realised they have the drive to excel in athletics. I clearly recall a day when Mushai told me that he wanted to win gold in Paralympics. I took up the challenge and I’m happy that God answered our prayers,” he said.
Boit said he braved numerous hurdles in his quest to guide his friend Mushai to global glory.
“When I began taking on Mushai in the long runs, my friends at home showed some disapproval. But I gathered courage and sacrificed my time to help him, knowing that it needs a lot of devotion to be a guide,” he said.
When visually impaired runners choose a guide, they always choose someone faster than them. “If you are slow, you risk being disqualified. While training with Mushai, I always felt that I can bring some change in him,” he said.
Boit said he has never shied away from doing something spectacular for visually impaired athletes, since they run well and are intelligent — and only require guidance.
“My steps and Mushai’s play together in the same way we do in our usual activities,” he said.
Outside of the time they are with Mushai, Boit runs with able-bodied athletes. These have not paid up well, as he earns about Sh10,000 in many races he has entered.
He finished sixth at the Chepkoilel Cross-country meeting, 12th at Tuskys Wareng cross-country and 14th at Kass Marathon, among others.
Now the big money has started to roll in.
“I am the only running sibling in our family. I believe my brothers and sisters will realise the value of athletics, but I want them to take education seriously,” he said.
Mushai said he was greatly excited with Boit getting cash incentives, saying it will help boost the Paralympics standards in Kenya.
On Tuesday, Safaricom dished out cash awards worth Sh17.2 million to Kenya’s Olympians and Paralympians.
The big winners of the day were double Paralympics silver medallist David Korir, who got Sh2.4 million for lowering world records in the 1,500m and 800m T13 class and 1,500 metres, T46 class world record holder and 800 metres, T46 class bronze medallist Abraham Tarbei who walked away with a cheque for Sh2.3 million.