Government has given athletes big reason to excel back

Thursday May 17 2018

Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid (second left) shares a light moment with boxer Christine Ongare (second right) ) on May 8, 2018 at Nairobi's Intercontinental Hotel. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid (second left) shares a light moment with boxer Christine Ongare (second right) ) on May 8, 2018 at Nairobi's Intercontinental Hotel. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By BARNABAS KORIR
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Last week, I had two topics to tackle but I opted to get the doping menace out of my way. By so doing I reserved the best news of that week for my subsequent column, which is today.

I am talking about the government’s pledge to reward athletes who win medals for this country around the globe.

Yes! Early last week government dished out grants to the tune of Sh11 million to medallists from last month’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

Indeed, the speed with which it was done was to say the least a bit surprising to many. Such promises have in the past taken ages to be honoured and in some instances not honoured at all.

Many a times, the athletes have had to complain directly to the President but this has had little impact in terms of action in the past.

However, there seems to be a new wind blowing since Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa and his Permanent Secretary took over the docket.

To be precise, medallists at the Club Games received Sh1 million for gold, Sh750,000 (silver) and Sh500,000 (bronze). Kenya won 17 medals—four gold, seven silver and six bronze during the games.

The gold medal winners included Helen Obiri (women’s 5,000m), Elijah Manangoi (men’s 1,500m),Wycliffe Kinyamal (men’s 800m) and world and Conseslus Kipruto (men’s 3,000m steeplechase).
Stacy Ndiwa (women’s 10,000m), Beatrice Chepkoech (women’s 1,500m), Celliphine Chespol (women’s 3,000m steeplechase), Margaret Nyairera (women’s 800m) Margaret Chelimo (women’s 5,000m), Timothy Cheruiyot (men’s 1,500m) and Abraham Kibiwot (men’s 3,000m) won silver while boxer Christine Ongare, Rodgers Kwemoi (men’s 10,000m), Amos Kirui (men’s 3,000m steeplechase), Edward Zakayo (men’s 5,000m), Samuel Gathimba (men’s walk) and Purity Cherotich (women’s 3,000m steeplechase) took bronze.

The Sports SC in his speech assured athletes that under his watch, they will be celebrated and appreciated accordingly in line with the directive of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He also promised to create an enabling infrastructure to ensure our athletes become world beaters in their respective fields.

I guess this is the way to go if we are to encourage more elite runners to represent the country in each and every event.

Initially, athletes have been hesitant to fly Kenya’s flag owing to lack of incentives. In essence, this means, they would rather run in other private races than race for Kenya because of the experience they have had with the government awards scheme.

But with last week’s gesture, this seems to be a thing of the past and we should expect stiff competition especially during our trials going forward.

However, we must walk the talk in as far as facilities are concerned if we have to provide an enabling training environment for Kenyans ahead of next year’s World Athletics Championships in Qatar and 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Korir is Athletics Kenya’s Nairobi branch chairman [email protected]