Let’s face it, Gold Coast was a terrible, unpatriotic outing

Tuesday April 17 2018

Kenya’s Hellen Obiri (centre, gold), Kenya’s Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi (left, silver) and England’s Laura Weightman (bronze) pose with their medals after the athletics women's 5000m final during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast on April 14, 2018. PHOTO | SAEED KHAN |

Kenya’s Hellen Obiri (centre, gold), Kenya’s Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi (left, silver) and England’s Laura Weightman (bronze) pose with their medals after the athletics women's 5000m final during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast on April 14, 2018. PHOTO | SAEED KHAN |  AFP

By ELIAS MAKORI
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Like vultures airborne, surveying their prey, Team Kenya critics gleefully hovered around the country’s performance at the just concluded Commonwealth Games in Australia, waiting to pounce on a hearty meal.

From armchair journalists to bloggers, coaches and non-travelling officials, they all pointed accusing fingers at the team’s management for, first, delaying the arrival of gold medals Down Under and, second, failing to match or surpass our performance four years ago in Glasgow.

Journalists who made the long trip to Queensland to document Kenya’s performances were also caught in the cross-fire, accused of “not telling the story.”

We were even branded “fake” journalists, because the “real journalists” would have unearthed the rot in Team Kenya’s camp at the Griffins University and helped unlock an avalanche of gold, silver and bronze medals.

The “real journalists” would have snatched Kenya from the jaws of indignity.

WhatsApp groups were set ablaze by a deafening salvo of heavy artillery aimed at the Media Centre on Broadbeach, from where Kenyan journalists typed away “feeble” copy.

Bundles on end were consumed, en masse, in a carefully choreographed charade.

Well, the critics had a point.

Their predatory instincts were spot on.

Journalists accredited for the games were, perhaps, “not candid” or “nosy” enough.

Perhaps, we were too much on the patriotic side, and in bed with a woeful Team Kenya on a legendary free-fall.

And that’s why Kenya nosedived and could muster only 17 medals (four gold, seven silver and six bronze), a massive slump from the Glasgow performance where the country minted 25 medals (10 gold, 10 silver and five bronze).

The critics were prophetic.

But I, prophetically, did express my reservations weeks ago, arguing that we could be headed for a disaster of hurricane proportions Down Under because of mediocre team selection.

A men’s marathon team that could easily have passed for a pensioners’ queue.

The mediocrity wasn’t just in athletics, but also in other sports, with federations more interested in making up the numbers and raking in per diems, rather than placing country before self.

The humiliation we were handed in the boxing ring, on the wrestling mats, squash courts and in the swimming pool were a fitting reward for an indifferent approach to these games.

An approach that saw undeserving athletes, in many of the disciplines, get the tickets to Gold Coast only to embarrass the nation.

Competitors who have no iota of respect for the national flag on their chests.

Who care less about bringing up the rear with the name ‘Kenya’ on their t-shirts and singlets.

They must learn from the Australians who collectively weep as a nation when their cricketers tamper with balls to win cricket games, rather than bowl toe-crunching yorkers to get the wickets.

It was reassuring to see a dozen Kenyan parliamentarian booked in five-star Gold Coast hotels, here to ostensibly “benchmark.”

I’m confident that there will be a flurry of sports activity on the Order Paper, and the honourable members will inject their Gold Coast experiences into debates on the floors of the upper and lower houses.

And that the Sports Cabinet Secretary, Rashid Echesa, and Principal Secretary Kirimi Kaberia – quite down to earth in their interactions with Team Kenya Down Under – will crack the whip and withdraw funding for ne’er-o-do-well federations.

In equal measure, Echesa and Kaberia should reward our heroes and heroines who struck gold, silver and bronze, elite athletes who put country before self and spared us the blushes in Gold Coast.

World champions Elijah Manangoi, Hellen Obiri and Conseslus Kipruto stand out for making the 25-hour trip to Gold Coast and panning gold.

These and other medallists deserve State honours.

They broke sweat for our national anthem to be played to a global audience.

They didn’t merely stand in a queue and eat githeri.

Meanwhile, those found guilty of tweaking national teams to serve selfish personal interests should be thrown in jail.

They are worse than political turncoats.

I’m waiting for the signal!

Meanwhile, I wish Kenya sevens star Arthur Owira a speedy recovery from his fractured femur.

Visiting him at the Gold Coast University Hospital Monday , I could see the determination of a patriot who can’t wait to recover and make Kenya proud again.

A true “Shujaa”.