Finally, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel, with recent developments offering a most welcome glimmer of hope for Kenya’s long-suffering sport.
First, the new executive committee at the erstwhile much-maligned National Olympic Committee of Kenya (Nock) appears to have hit the ground running, with activity at their Plaza 2000 headquarters reassuring.
Having taken over a malfeasant office riddled with incompetence that hit an all-time low with the Rio 2016 Olympics scandals, Nock chairman Paul Tergat and his team were faced with the gargantuan task of shaking the monkey off their backs.
And with military precision, Tergat - a Kenya Air Force officer and distance running legend – and his team meticulously went about undoing the mess, their efforts having yielded significant result.
One of the most positive steps Nock have taken, besides streamlining fiscal discipline at this vital Olympics body, is to address the perennial dearth of technical muscle in our sports.
Nock’s recent formation of a technical think-tank to drive performance is a welcome first.
This think tank is comprised of well-exposed and experienced individuals whose key role will be to address technical deficiencies in the various federations.
Followers of sport will agree that football legend Musa Otieno, celebrated tennis coach Rosemary Owino, veteran athletics coach Julius Kirwa, rugby icon Felix Ochieng along with strength and conditioning guru Geoffrey Kimani are peerless in the trade.
These form the caucus of Nock’s pool of coaches that will service needy federations along with individual athletes and coaches through bespoke elite training programmes.
In the final analysis, we stand to have better tuned-up athletes and, consequently, higher medal prospects.
By running weekend camps for targeted elite groups, this pool of coaches will go a long way in making available much sought-after high performance training opportunities.
Tergat’s team at Nock is also dishing out training scholarships for elite athletes to help cement Kenya’s position as Africa’s leading nation on the medals table at major championships.
Secondly, and in tandem with Nock’s vision, the bursting into life of the Sports, Arts and Social Services Development Fund is welcome news to Kenya’s serially broke federations.
In his Madaraka Day speech last weekend, President Uhuru Kenyatta underscored the seriousness with which his government is taking sports funding.
Specifically, the President pointed out at the Sh181 million dished out to Kenya’s 3,338 medallists who stood on global podiums between 2010 and 2019, the Sh244 million drawn out for Harambee Stars’ Africa Cup of Nations campaign and the (over Sh200 million) commitment to Kenya’s campaign to have the Safari Rally back on the World Rally Championship roster as signs that the new fund was gaining altitude.
These signs offer us hope, and the ball is now squarely on the courts of the federations who must draw up their programmes well in advance to avoid desperate acts of thrusting begging bowls in the faces of government and Nock officials on the eve of important assignments.
Conversely, Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed’s officials at Kencom House must instil more professionalism in the management of our sportsmen and women by making sure travel perks and rewards for performance are wired to the stars’ accounts as fast as these officials sign off their own per diems.
The work ethic of these civil servants must turn to positive, and they should appreciate the fact that they are in public service to serve Kenyan sport, and not, in John Ruganda speak, to bleed the leech and fatten the heifer.
After all, it is these athletes that will make the sports ministry shine.