The crazy stories that surround Kenyan athletes

The crazy stories that surround Kenyan athletes

By Edith. O. Virginia

Decades on and Kenya is still a force to reckon with in the athletic world. If you are a lover of history, especially to do with athletics in Kenya, some moments go down among the greatest sporting events, and some, as the most hilarious.

We have won trophies and we have brought home different endorsement deals and some had to go through different lengths of perseverance and battling great frustrations to stand a chance in a game of time. Some moments are humourous while others will awe you but this is Kenya and we are in a race to becoming the best African nation there ever was and will be.

Here are a few humorous moments in the world of athletics that you may have missed.

1. Asbel Kiprop is proof of how the last shall be the first

While this statement holds true for most of our Athletes, Abel Kiprop made it a memorable moment for himself. Leading to the world championship in Maiden, Abel though he was in good shape, was the last to be selected in the Kenyan Team for the world cross country junior marathon. He won first place.

Later, during an interview, he said it was nothing to do with strength rather it was all about cleverness. He later admits that his first world title changed his life and even allowed him to board a plane first class for his other races.

File image of Asbel Kiprop. |Photo| Courtesy|
File image of Asbel Kiprop. |Photo| Courtesy|

2. Nyantika Maiyoro won a race after starting late

The story of legendary Nyantika is rather too funny because he spent most of his time away from class and as such didn’t get the chance to become good at English. So he only understood two languages which were Kiswahili and Kisii. For him to do professional races this called for him to always have a translator who stood in as his coach also on sight.

If you are not familiar with the history here’s a snippet of this world record holder of the first Kenyan to actually run in an Olympic final where he qualified for a 5000m final in Melbourne in 1956 barefoot and was also a captain for team Kenya.

Nyandika started a race late with more than 100m to catch up and made sure he caught up and went past the other racers to finish first, talk of a stitch in time.

You probably wonder how he ended up in that situation well in his defence he must have not understood what was happening. His translator had gone to use the lavatory and must have taken longer than anticipated so he got back when the race had already begun.

While looking at the racers, Nyantika was nowhere among them and being as fast as he was, he would have been in the lead. The translator looked around and called out his name to which he responded and the translator said “Nyantika, mbona haukimbii? Hizi ndizo mbio zako!” and off went Nyantika to the start to join the other racers who by then had already made their first turn and were halfway into a lap.

How he caught up and bypassed them to win the race in record time was remarkable.

File image of Kenyan athletics legend, the late Nyantika Maiyoro. |Photo| Courtesy|
File image of Kenyan athletics legend, the late Nyantika Maiyoro. |Photo| Courtesy|

3. Hyvon Ngetich crawled to the finish

Well well well, a win is as good as the struggle or so we were made to believe. Hyvon’s story is different. In February 2015, at the Austin marathon, she was in the lead when the race began.

With close to only 50 metres to finish the race, she started experiencing pains in her body and to prove her strength she never caved in. Instead, she opted to crawl her way to the finish line.

In any race, medics are always around to assist with wheelchairs and even first aid in case of dire cases of emergency. Her case was different she crawled to the finish line and still came third place. This crawl made a mark for her as her prize money was doubled.

After the race while on an interview, she was asked why she was seen crawling? She made a good sigh and said “I don’t remember crawling. In running you always keep going and going. That my people is how you love a game. It isn’t just about winning it’s about finishing and of course winning.”

The act of crawling caught the eye of the organizers who termed it’s as the bravest thing they had ever seen.

YouTube player

4. Josephat Machuka punches opponent while racing

The opponent, in this case, is renowned Ethiopian athlete, Haile Gabresellasie. For Josephat Machuka, a good run is about finishing first and nothing short of being the best.

The two had a run for the title in the 1992 World Junior champions, Machuka was fighting for a first-place win against Gabresellasie who to him was like a frenemy in the race. With only a few metres close to the finish line, Machuka realised that his said opponent was actually beating him to become first.

He put up a fight and raced faster towards him only to punch Gabresellasie in the back of the head. This led to his immediate disqualification as his display of violence was against sports rules.

The sportsman who seemed non-apologetic about the act as at the time seemed to have really wanted to be number one so badly that being a two wasn’t in his goals. He would have still been a winner had he not pulled a punch towards the back of Gabresellasie but he chose violence.

File image of Josephat Machuka and Haile Gebrselassie. |Photo| Courtesy|
File image of Josephat Machuka and Haile Gebrselassie. |Photo| Courtesy|

5. Kenyan Athletes and their English command

As humorous as these situations are the videos of our Kenya athletes fumbling with poor command of the language will tell you for free that they don’t even bother trying to impress anyone.

This comes a few minutes after a good race where different media houses would like to hear at least one or two experiences of the athletes in the race. This has gone far into blames thrown at the government for not investing in good education for our Athletes.

In such situations, you can even see most western interviewers struggling to understand what our beloved champions are saying. This has been experienced time and time again.

My opinion is to speak in a language you have the best command in. It’s the interviewers’ job to find translators. The idea of the whole thing is you are the hero and that shouldn’t change because you cannot speak English. Give them a run to understand our beautiful diversity.

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