Of Sports Legacies – Kenneth Matiba’s

In keeping with the spirit of localized sports content, we took time to pay homage to one of Kenya’s foremost entrepreneurs and influences of sports. Though known more for his political exploits than his sporting streak, his legacy will live to endure. Here’s to the late Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba.

In April this year, Kenya mourned the loss of one of its most astute politicians and efficacious entrepreneurs in Kenneth Njindo Matiba. Even more significant to this column, we lost one of the best sports administrators and visionaries the country has ever had.

Starting off as a senior civil servant, Matiba quit politics to join the world of business (before making a re-entry back to politics in the 1980s). His entry into one of Kenya’s blue chip companies, Kenya Breweries otherwise trading as East Africa Breweries Limited, his impact in both business and sports started being felt almost immediately.

The late K.N. Matiba tests the track at Nyayo National Stadium - Image courtesy of www.nation.co.ke
The late K.N. Matiba tests the track at Nyayo National Stadium – Image courtesy of www.nation.co.ke

First off was Kenyan football where he cajoled the revamp and formation of a new team to run the sport. This ensured that not only were the officials meant to be competent people but also accountable to both the sports people and sponsors alike.

As if to reciprocate his intended mission, Kenyan football entered one of its golden periods late 1970s to early 1980s. This was both at club and national team performances – where the AFC Leopards and Gor Mahias of yore won the CECAFA Club title and Harambee Stars the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup. In the same token, Matiba managed to develop an in-house team in the form of Kenya Breweries which would occasionally challenge the top clubs of Kenyan football then – indeed it was the foundation set in the 1980s which saw the club reaching the continental club cup challenge in 1994 – only to lose in the Finals to DRC’s DC Motema Pembe.

He had intended to professionalize football as early as 1978 while serving as the KFF Chair. Even though this never came to fruition following his resignation from the federation, he had aspired to leave the game with what would have been its enduring legacy. He handed over to the new team with the transparency and accountability of a custodian entrusted to run the federation’s properties.

To ensure his impact wasn’t restricted to one sport, Matiba assigned some of his colleagues at Kenya Breweries to manage the boxing federation. This was through one Marsden Madoka – as chair of Amateur Boxing Association (now known as the Boxing Association of Kenya). Through the latter’s stewardship, Kenya had its best decade to date in the 1980s when the national team, affectionately known as the “Hit Squad” participated in several international tournaments coming home with worthy wins. From the 1987 8-Gold medals performance in Nairobi at the All Africa Games to the first and only Gold medal outside of athletics for Kenya at the 1988 Olympic Games held in Seoul.

Would we forget it’s during Matiba’s stint in the Culture Ministry that Kenya hosted boxing legend Muhammad Ali as well as FIFA’s top honcho then, Joao Havelenge?

Talking matters Olympics, it was during his legacy that the Olympic Youth Centres were launched in Kenya. This was a youth development program meant to develop and nurture talent from all parts of the country. This program produced some of the best footballers who came of age in the 1980s including the likes of Ambrose Ayoyi, Davies Oyiela, Hassan Juma and Wycliffe Anyagu just to mention but a few. It is this breed of players who stood up to Egypt’s The Pharaohs at the 1987 All Africa Games only to lose by a goal in the gold medal match.

Kenya's Harambee Stars at All-Africa Games 1987 - Image courtesy of www.kenyanpage.net
Kenya’s Harambee Stars at All-Africa Games 1987 – Image courtesy of www.kenyanpage.net

The team had beaten strong teams that included Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions (who three years later made history in the 1990 World Cup in Italy getting to the quarter-finals), Malawi and Tunisia. Imagine where The Pharaohs are playing now? At the World Cup in St. Petersburg, Russia. If Kenya had only followed through with the dreams of the 1970s and 1980s? If not at international level, at least the continental onslaught would be more likely achieved by now.

Do you recall the Festival of Darts screened on national television in the 1980s and 1990s? “Gaame shot!” invoked one Sammy Lui Wang’ondu – who worked as Matiba’s PA at Kenya Breweries at one time and moonlighted as an MC on other occasions. For what would appear to have been a nondescript game, the sponsorship and screening of the same by Kenya Breweries popularized the sport immensely locally.

It introduced us to the English and Swahili banter of Michael Round-Turner and Dunstan Tido Muhando whose analysis kept us glued to the screens just before the English news on the only TV station then. Thanks to these developments, the Kenyan Darts national team participated in the 1993 Darts World Cup in Las Vegas emerging 8th out of 34 nations.

To other less visible sporting and outdoor activities including the Outward Bound and Hodari Boys Club – which sought to nurture young boys in their teens to formidable young men to the mountaineering club which did became an obsession to the man, Kenneth Matiba did it all. From snow-capped mountains of Equatorial Africa in Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro in Africa to Mt. Everest on the challenging and tall ranges of Himalayas in Asia. For him, it was not enough to put money into sports but rather put money where his mouth was. He did walk his talk, quite literally!

His lessons in sports business and management ought to be chronicled in the annals of Kenyan sport.  He managed to convince the sports federations to style up and clean house.  His was investing in sport but also ensuring the monies put into sports were well spent and sports persons rewarded for their performances.  Our current state of sport in the country is dire need of such a visionary.

Sports federations have been riding roughshod over sports teams and athletes. How do we explain the sad tale of two of Kenya’s top teams who still can’t afford to pay their players on a monthly basis? Why do the clubs have to depend on a single sponsor who whenever it doesn’t suit their needs withdraws sponsorship on a whim? How many times will we keep hearing of unpaid allowances and bonuses for teams on national duty?

Even with the enactment of the Sports Bill, the magic bullet that we have waited for to change and transform sports in Kenya is still a nonstarter. Two Cabinet Secretaries later, the National Sports Lottery is still a cropper even as our athletes keep bringing honor to this nation – at amateur, semi-professional and professional levels. We have seen divestiture by companies from sports on mismanagement of the sponsorship monies as well as increased costs of doing business – Naspers SuperSport comes to mind. If I were to list the companies that have offered to sponsor sports but give it a wide berth due to mismanagement and lack of foresight, I’d run out of space on this article.

What can we learn from the late Matiba?

For starters, sports federations have to learn to operate within the confines of their respective laws and those of the land. Transparency and accountability ought to be second nature to the daily operations.

  • To sports officials, the sports discipline is about the athletes or players – never about you. Let your actions and decisions be the yardstick by which the sporting fraternity uses to judge your performance. Your legacy should speak for itself not weekly press briefings.
  • To Kenyan corporates, put your money where your mouth is. Choose a sport, research well and be invested for the long-haul. The sporadic and measly sponsorships to get good mentions and media mileage will not fly.
  • Still on investment in sport, it should not be an afterthought and peppered CSR activities that brand managers run for. Offer the time, experience and skills to run sport like a business – for we ought to be in the business of sports in this century.
  • To sports athletes, players and coaches discipline, focus and leadership where needed will ensure success of your respective sports disciplines. In the crazy millennium that is the 21st century, yours isn’t an enviable task but it’s the one thing that you have chosen to do – do it well.
  • With his stints in both Kenyan football and other sporting activities, as well as his stint in the Ministry of Culture and Social Services, he served his country diligently. Though brief, the legacies left in respective disciplines are more than we can share here.

God bless Matiba’s time with us, rest in sport brave warrior!

Commonwealth Games – Glasgow : Kenya’s Gold, Bleed and Ugly

2014 and it is exactly 60 years since a Kenyan sports personality made it to any international sporting event! And this event was the Commonwealth Games in 1954 ( had previously been known as British Empire Games).

Glasgow 2014 – image courtesy of glasgow.com

With such rich heritage and a storied past, the 2014 edition ought to have been a done deal for Kenyan sport but alas! It is another skewed performance from a contingent of 169 athletes and officials. A misnomer of the Commonwealth Games is that fierce competitors, Ethiopia and other North African countries do not participate.
But even without these countries, Glasgow exposed the scope of Kenya’s famed athletes. Out of the 13 disciplines, only 3 managed to get to the podium.

Stand-Outs: 

  1. Julius Yego – Javelin Gold standard – first ever field event Gold
    medal in major c’ships. Even without proper training facilities and technical support he keeps getting better;
Julius Yego – Golden Throw – www.getty.com

2. Eunice Sum – 800m – she’s the reigning world champ and she turned up for the another sterling performance;3. Caleb Ndiku – 5000m – coming of age, he was named 2010 SOYA
most promising athlete and showed why. Exit Ezekiel Kemboi too we have another performer…

Disappointments:

David Rudisha – 800m Silver – World/Olympic
champ & WR holder, we expected nothing short of Gold, even with a poor season so far;

Jason Dunford – Swimming – he finally admitted
frustrations/lack of Kenya’s Swimming Federation support ( and no officials are sacked..???);

Kenya 7s team – after finishing 2nd
in the table standings in the preliminaries, they met their match in New Zealand who ended our first rugby Commonwealth medal chances

Special Mentions:

  1. Conrad Nkanata – US-based sprinter – finished 3rd
    in his 200m heat, with proper training he can be a future sprinter;
  2. Benson Gicharu – Boxer – even with time running
    out for his amateur boxing career, he is still punching it out at major sports
    events

Kenya Sports (Mis)management:

The charade of Kenyan officials in managing the team
continued. First it was delayed allowances due to athletes. Second was the kit
issue with missing or delayed kit to Team Kenya.  Third was late accreditation which meant
missed attendance by cyclist, David Kinjah among others. Fourth and it’s truly
out of personal frustration was lack of technical/financial support as well as
favouritism in team selection. These last were raised not just by
non-traditional disciplines but also swimmers such as Jason Dunford who may
have had his swansong representing the country in any sport.

Golden Girls – 3000m s’chase Kenyan trio

We have said this before and shall repeat it for the
umpteenth time. Kenya’s sport management needs to change RADICALLY! Why have more than 10 disciplines and only 2-3
have any chance of winning medals? Can more investment be made on a few of
these or if all disciplines are represented, get proper exposure to have
winning chance(s).

  •    Kitting
    – what business goes on with kit which has been acquired for national duty? Why
    should some official conveniently forget to order this in time? Other times
    they issue it to non-participants or stock it in local shops. Sponsors should
    also review such misdemeanor and cancel contracts for misallocated kits.
  •    Allowances
    – we saw the embarrassment of African teams in World Cup. It did not even take
    a month before our own officials replicated that same template. Why should
    individual be charged with responsibility of managing team finances? In future
    all participants should supply account details and monies sent direct to them
    like regular pay.
  •    Size of
    squad
    – how many officials are really needed to attend international events
    even when their disciplines have no chance of winning a bronze medal?
    Participation should be on how successful a sport is at regional, continental
    or international duty.
  •    Technical/Financial
    details
    – for most disciplines Kenya has lost a semblance of international
    standards. From boxing, swimming to even some athletics events, the edge of
    advances in technical knowledge is lacking. Spotlight is on sports federations’
    internal wrangles and lack of international best practice to compete at such
    levels.
As usual we shall be treated to excuses and made to forget what has become perennial under-achieving by our national team(s). As a nation,we need to demand accountability from those in charge of our sports bodies. The Government must also stop playing deaf and be more forceful in getting officials to straighten their act. 
It is no wonder that most athletes prefer running in Grand Prix events, others opting to quit even before their prime as a frustrated lot. See what is happening to the football fraternity? 

Sports Secretary Dr. Hassan A. Wario – An Oath for Kenyan Sports

Daktari you must be now have learnt how to manoeuvre traffic in and around the KenCom house which houses your Ministry carved back into the Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs. We also remember your own words about the capacities of Culture and Arts being your forte but Sports not such a knowledgeable affair to you ( the ‘corrupt’ and those for the status quo must have smiled and winked at each other…).

First order of the day is to read and re-read the new Sports Act which was passed (thanks in part to your predecessor) earlier this year. Carry copies in you car,since now you’re chauffeured into office, get it on your i-Pad or whatever gadget tickles your fancy. Get the technocrats in your Ministry to break down those technical terms and on a regular basis, consult widely with sports stakeholders not just officials in their respective sports organisations. This will serve you in good stead in the coming 4-5 years depending on when the mandate of this government ends.

Secondly, do ensure that as the Act prescribes ALL sports bodies – federations, associations or unions – carry the intended elections. We have a couple which have already been in abidance with that rule ( though majority were merely rubber-stamping the status quo). Keep these bodies in check by requiring regular reports and budgets review and where applicable ensure those not towing or keeping with the mandate of their bodies, chase them and sacrifice on the high altar of the rule of law. There needs to be a few heads rolling every now and then….you’re a well-travelled man and you know what they do in China if you’re declared corrupt in People’s Republic.

Third, in your works in Culture and national museums, you must have learnt a thing or two about archiving and record keeping. Do dig those archives for reports from the 1987 All-Africa Games and subsequent All Africa Games, 1990s World Cross Country championships, Olympic Games reports from 1956-1972 &1984-2012 among others. Those will make you have a clear view of what happened to Kenyan sport and why we have either lost or gained in some sports disciplines.

Fourth, read sports policy documents from sporting countries like Australia, Brazil, China, USofA and even our colonial masters the UK. These countries have enshrined sports as mainstream activities and their governments ‘have put their money where their mouths are’. The world over, unless the Government actively engages its populace in sport and make deliberate efforts to do so, Kenya shall suffer from the lethargy it has continued to suffer from in the last 20 years or so. Chairman Mao Tse Tung declared table tennis a national sport and you can see today what that sport has done for the country and its satellite states.

Fifth, you must also revisit the Jubilee manifesto to guide you on your appointing authority mandate & previous Government policies e.g. the reward system and recognition as national heroes.A major point is the investment in infrastructure in sports in at least 5 counties and building stadia and sports academies. It’s a  shame that the country has not undertaken any major sports infrastructure development for most sports disciplines. It is sad that open spaces have either become grabbers’ paradise or grazing fields for urban animal keepers or just suffering from neglect. A quick audit of all these facilities in the country will show those that can be secured by the state and those that the country governments can start working immediately. Together with the Local Government Ministry do ensure that urban planners factor open playing spaces and no not just the usual golfing fields but football, running tracks and other such facilities.

Sixth, there are some associations with some semblance of order, consult with those and ensure they have direct access to your office. They will need your office’s guidance and support to secure regional and international competitions and the State should never again have to suffer the reputation that we did in 1996 of bidding for a continental competition only for the country to back out in the last minute ( Africa Cup of Nations, which was eventually hosted and won by South Africa).

Dr. Hassan A. Wario – Image courtesy of www.nation.co.ke

Seventh, curriculum in schools and higher institutions of learning should start emphasising on sports and the business around it. As we write this, only 2 universities in Kenya are offering course in sports management and physical activities. Even with such a rich heritage of sports achievers and sports leaders, surely we can start working on relevant curriculum for those willing to engage in sport not just on the field and pitch but also in the boardrooms and offices. We can have collaborations and short term course from reputable institutions such University of Michigan, Ohio State University, University of East London, Cardiff University to name just a few.

These 7 points we have sought to talk about will be more than enough for your 5-year term and achieving 7–80% of these will be major boon for Kenyan sport on the global scene. You undertook that oath, we keep the faith!

SIDENOTE:
Kindly consider opening Twitter accounts for your Ministry and one of own. Kenyans on Twitter famously known as #KOT who have a thing for sport will engage with you but be ready for baptism by fire…

Road to Olympics : 1968 Mexico Games – Kenya sees Gold !

After participating in 3 consecutive Olympic Games, the country was slowly yearning for better achievements and for this the country’s sports personalities were well rewarded. Mexico City – Mexico was also a first of many sorts and it earned a mixed bag of fortunes.

Mexico 1968image from www.olympics.org

Let’s look at the facts and figures from the Games;

Figures & Results:

‘Speed-Cop’ Kipchoge Keinoimage from Rich Clarkson
  • 5556 participants from 112 countries was a marked improvement from the Tokyo Games ’64;
  • 172 events were held in 20 sports disciplines;
  • Kenya participated in 4 sports disciplines – Athletics, Boxing, Hockey and Shooting;
  • Kenya was placed 14th overall, a major improvement on the 1964 Games where she placed  35th.
  • Kenya won 3 Gold namely; Kipchoge Keino-1,500m (M), Naftali Temu-10,000m and Amos Biwott-3000m steeplechase (which was to become Kenya’s mainstay for any major events she participated in) ; 4 Silver; Wilson Kiprugut-800m, Kipchoge Keino-5,000m , Ben Kogo-3,000m steeplechase and the 4x400m men’s team ( Daniel Rudisha, Charles Asati,Naftali Bon and Munyoro Nyamau); 2 Bronze; Naftali Temu-5,000m and Philip Waruinge -Featherweight boxing;
  • Philip Waruinge was awarded the Val Barker Trophy for the Most Outstanding boxer ‘pound-for-pound’, despite winning the bronze in Featherweight. He remains the only African boxer to have won the trophy to date. 
  • Kenya’s Hockey team finished 8th overall, a drop from the 6th position from Tokyo Games;
  • One John Harun (Mwau) was ranked 76th in Shooting’s Mixed Small -Bore Rifle, Prone 50m. (He’s currently an MP in Kenya’s Parliament having had an illustrious career in the Kenya Police, Interpol as well as the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission).

Interesting Facts:


  • As quoted in an online forum, this was the first Olympic Games to have ‘first large-scale incursion of politics directly in the Olympic venues’.
  • Mexico was the first developing country to host the Olympics. It was also at its ‘highest altitude’ ever at 2,240m (7,350 ft) a.s.l.(above sea level).
  • Tommie Smith and John Carlos – US 200m (gold & bronze winners respectively)sprinters raised their fists clothed in black gloves during the medal awards ceremony- as a symbol of protest against human rights violation to the Black populace in United States. They also asked Australia’s Peter Norman to wear a badge in solidarity with them. This cost them a life ban from any future Olympic Games or IOC-related events which was a bit too harsh if you ask me…
  • Also joining in political protest was one Vera Caslavska – from former state Czechoslovakia ( now Czech & Slovak Republics after fall of communism in Eastern Europe) – her silent protest during medal awards was against Soviet invasion of the state.
  • As noted before, Mexico City has the highest altitude ever for an Olympic event at 2,240m a.s.l – some in athletics were worried about its effects on the athletes including Kenya’s own ‘speed cop’ Kip Keino but this turned out to a blessing in disguise with record-breaking performances from some of the other events.
  • Bob Beamon (US) leapt 8.90m in the men’s long jump to what would be one of athletics’ most enduring world records. It still is the Olympic record.
  • Sequence of Fosbury Flopimage from www.shorecrest.org
  • Dick Fosbury (US) won the high jump with the unconventional Fosbury Flop. This would eventually be adopted by most if not all high jumpers.
  • One Jacques Rogge (current IOC President) represented Belgium for the first in 3 Olympic Games appearances in yachting. 
  • John S. Akhwari(Tanzania) finished the men’s marathon with a dislocated knee and this became a lasting symbol of the Olympic Games spirit – quipped here saying “my country did not send me 10,000 miles just to start the race, they sent me to finish the race. He is currently an Olympic Goodwill ambassador.
  • Tlateloclo massacre – this happened 10 days to the opening of the Games and almost derailed the event. 44 people were killed as students and civilians rioted against ‘repressive actions and blatant violation of university autonomy’ by the Mexican government. A blown-up kite was flighted during the Games with the black shadow representing a ‘silent protest’ by the students.
  • Drug-testing debuted to check on performance-enhancing drugs which was becoming a thorn in the flesh for amateur sports.

All in all, the Games marked an improved performance from Kenya and many African countries as most continued enjoying their newly-found independence from their colonial masters.
The Games had now become a major political platform for many States which knew that with the world glued to the television and other media channels, it was the perfect place to send out whatever message – be it silent, symbolic or otherwise.
Commercialisation of sports was also at its formative stages and going into the 1970s, this would form the basis of future sports business for most if not all sporting disciplines and events.

Sources:
International Olympics Committee www.olympic.org
National Olympic Committee-Kenya
Britannica Encyclopedia www.britannica.com
About.com www.about.com
Wikipedia www.wikipedia.com

All-Africa Games 2011 – Is Kenya ready for Continental Take-over?



2011 sees the start of what ought to be a busy 2 years for most sporting associations in the country. Yes we have the continental championships in the form of All-Africa Games this year being held in Maputo (official site here) starting us off. The next major sporting event is the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London – a major one since Britain are Kenya’s former colonial masters…
Back to the All-Africa Games, over the years, these Games have enjoyed or lost their glare depending on the country hosting them and again because the prestige attached to the Pan-Africa games have been eroded by more commercially lucrative sporting events for the different sporting disciplines.
Again the secretariat that run the AAG have not been able to get the Games to be a major attraction to the continent’s different states. As is often the case with most African states saying or promising one thing and actually doing another, the same has been the case with AAG. Remember that fiasco that almost became of the 4th All-Africa Games with Kenya hosting the continent 9 full years after 2 postponements?
The current Games were handed to Mozambique after initial hosts Zambia were unable to host due to lack of funds. Even current hosts Mozambique have their own challenges with them not having a hockey pitch worth hosting international games.
So what chance does Kenya have of topping the tables at the AAG?
1987:
The best performance the country has enjoyed was back in 1987 thanks of course to hosting them. That year and the build-up to the Games produced some of the best years for Kenyan sport with the national football team being a regional powerhouse & almost beating Egypt in a controversial final game ( we must remember that is the same year that Gor Mahia achieved continental supremacy in the club Africa Cup Winners Cup – Nelson Mandela Cup). The athletics team was able to hone skills that aided them in the 1988 Summer Olympic Games where we harvested 4 gold medals.

The boxing team ‘The Hit Squad’ was in no nonsense moods and collected 10 out of a possible 12 gold medals and went on to produce Africa’s first gold medal at the Korea Olympics thanks to the late,Robert Wangila Napunyi.
Other success stories were the hockey team was represented Africa albeit with no win at the 1988 Olympics; a medal in tae-kwo-ndo & also the emergence of Kenya’s women’s volleyball from their male counterparts.

2011:
24 years later, the dynamics have changed drastically. We have the usual shenanigans of lack of funds, more corrupt sports officials and vested interests among a myriad of challenges. The Sports Ministry has announced that Kenya will be represented in 19 disciplines out of the possible 23, laudable so far. But that’s almost where the good news ends.
Of all the sporting teams, the athletics one is the only one which conducted competitive and transparent team selection. Most of the other associations are plagued by disagreements over team selection, availability of funds and officials. Take a case of the boxing team, officials are busy suspending each other, while the game has lost its place in the national sporting scene. Where the team was enjoying participation to continental and international championships such the King’s Cup in Bangkok, there is no team worth talking about. The last time we sent a team to the Commonwealth Games it was some embarrassment with most of the boxers not able to keep up with modern scoring techniques and really no punching worth their gloves.
Look at the hockey,basketball, tae-kwon-ndo teams to name but a few. Pathetic to say the least…
The Assistant Minister of Sports announced that there would be no joy-riders on the teams going down south.

  • Good pronouncement but aren’t you the people charged with the responsibility of securing the nation’s interest for the good of our sportsmen and women?
  • Except for Athletics Kenya, Kenya Rugby Union, how are the other sporting bodies even still in existence? If not trying to give a semblance of a league, most are walking ghosts with officials out to enjoy office trappings for their own selfish gains and allowances leaving bankrupt bodies.
  • What sense is there in carrying a bloated team in the name of representation & national pride instead of a few well-selected and competitive teams which are almost certain of securing victory in their disciplines?
  • Mr. Minister Sir, even in our beloved athletics we have seen the national team selection take place only for our brothers and sisters to go falter at the continental stage after mismanagement by their agents and lack of proper training schedules. What plans do you have in place to ensure this doesn’t happen?
  • You have done great to change the lot for sporting people and teams going for national representation. Great that you are committing KShs.200 million of the 300 meant for preparing the contingent to Mozambique. But do you usually insist on comprehensive reports from these assignments and do you ever act on them anyway?
  • All-Africa Games should be the breeding ground for our teams to shine on the bigger international stage at next year’s Olympic Games. What is the Government doing to improve on previous performances and restore Kenya’s pride on that stage?
  • We had our swimmers do a great job in Algiers in 2007, Beijing 2008 and last year in New Delhi. Do they stand a chance of winning more medals and making us even more proud in London next year?

Answers to this questions will mean our participation in Maputo will not be another joyride and restore some pride to the country as well as ensure nurturing budding talent which is waiting in the wings. Anything short of those answers and Bwana Waziri, you shall be carrying 200 athletes and 200 officials busy on a sight-seeing trip and learning the local Portuguese dialect more than national duty.
It’s your call!

Check our earlier post on 2007 All-Africa Games as well as SportsNewsArena’s article on 2011 AAG.

Kenya’s Best Commonwealth Outing – Our Future looks Bright…

Thanks to our athletes our very modest predictions have been clearly outdone and that’s great to note. The success of the outing is a great motivator to future generations engaging in sport – at least now we can build on something and not rest on our laurels.
Though major sporting nations were not represented, this didn’t stop our sportsmen putting on a good showing and going the extra mile to ensure they challenged the pecking order of Commonwealth nations. This was our best outing ever at the Club Games and we shall shine the spotlight on a few of the sportsmen/women we thought did a great job out there;

1) Jason Dunford (Gold Medal 50m Butterflystroke) – Without any doubt, he is edging his place into the history books from his international outings. Coming from a non-traditional country in the swimming circles and also given the fact they we do not have the right facilities, the gods have been good to their cause with the university (Stanford) providing a great training ground. The family has also been more than supportive helping ensure the boys get training facilities in Europe which have been well tested. His past African and Olympic exploits are coming to fruition and still rising.
If those who award national awards are listening those Elder of the Golden Heart and Moran of the Burning Spear should not be awarded to taciturn and bureaucratic civil servants and politicians, these are the people who deserve them.
Verdict: 5 Stars

2) Nancy Jebet Langat( 800m & 1500m Gold )-At the 2008 Olympic Games, Kenyans read the headlines of a double gold medal win – one from the 800m men’s contest by the more flamboyant and captain of Kenyan team Wilfred Bung’ei. The other gold was from the then little known Nancy Jebet -who’s so unassuming other athletes underestimate her tenacity. Well this year she springs another suprise by doing a double in yes her speciality the 1500m and 800m. Some may say that the top athletes in the distance in the likes of Pamela Jelimo, Janeth Jepkosgei and South Africa’s Caster Semenya were not around but who cares? She did her bit and was rewarded for that.
Verdict: 5 Stars

Mark Mutai just makes it – courtesy of Nation.co.ke

3) Mark Kiprotich Mutai (400m Gold Medal & 4x400m silver ) – having shown some great sprint work at the African Athletics Championships and being denied a bronze medal in the individual 400m race he made it even sweeter stretching the Australian in the 400m and winning by the slimmest of margins. He also anchored the 4x400m relay team and scorched the track and missing the gold but settling for second-best.
Verdict: 4 Stars


4) Milcah Cheywah, Mercy Wanjiru Njoroge, Gladys Jerotich Kipkemoi (3000m Women’s Steeplechase Gold , Silver & Bronze )  theirs may have seemed like an easy race but when you come up and decide to share the spoils between yourselves and annihilate the competition from the other countries, that’s no mean achievement. The water obstacle and how one jumped as they said is what won the race and  Milcah led the way for a Kenyan 1-2-3 sweep.
Verdict: 3 Stars

5) Irene Kosgei & John Eriku Elai ( Women & Men’s Marathon Gold ) – waiting for an event till the last day in the humid conditions of the Indian sub-continent is not an easy thing. It also doesn’t help when all your role models are busy winning the marathons in more lucrative races as the Boston, Berlin marathons portend. But the two decided to run their races and the former Irene led another Irene ( Mogake) into a 1-2 for the Commonwealth race.
Verdict: 3 Stars


6) Boaz, Richard and Abraham Kiplagat(not related) (800m Gold,Silver and Bronze) slowly making up for lost ground are the men’s 800m athletes who are trying to emulate the 1980s & 90s exploits of Billy Konchellah, Paul Ereng and William Sigei. They did this with style getting another 1-2-3 sweep.
Verdict : 3 Stars

Grace Momanyi – courtesy of Flickr

7) Grace Momanyi ( Gold Women 10000m) & Silas Kiplagat (1500m Gold) – She and Doris Chepkwemo gave Kenyans another 1-2 finish which continued the trend of the Kenyan athletes in the Games. Same case to Silas Kiplagat leading James Kiplangat in the 1500m race.
Verdict: 3 Stars


Special Mentions:
– Grace Wanjiru – 20 Km Bronze medallist
– Richard Mateelong  & 3000m Steeplechase medallists
– Benson Njangiru – Silver Medallist – Flyweight
– Rugby Sevens Team ( very modestly here for beating Samoa at most)


By close of the Games, Kenya topped the athletics medal table  11 Gold, 10 Silver & 9 Bronze medals( ahead of South Africa and Nigeria…hehehe) and that’s a great achievement. As said there earlier, if the Kenyan authorities were to be genuine enough in awarding national honours, these are some who deserve to be on that roll.  We had also kept our forecast realistic but they have proved they have what it takes to be at international meets.

Brand Kenya too needs to wake from the slumber (though we are told someone is working on it….imagine someone in India remembers Maurice Odumbe even after we sacrificed him on the corridors of justice….tragic!)

Commonwealth Games 2010 : Kenya’s Medal Hopes

2 days to go; we shall look at what medal hopes Kenya has hoping to work some magic and join the Commonwealth nations in throwing a great party in New Delhi. Much work has been done by the Indian authorities trying to get some reprieve from the hostile media coverage and even gotten fair endorsement from the IOC supremo Jacques Rogge. 
We have also had our reservations but let’s give our Asian brothers the benefit of doubt to put out something memorable.What chances do we have of beating the 2006 medal haul of 6 gold, 5 silver and 7 bronze medals? Here’s our take (DISCLAIMER: nothing scientific in determining this...);


Athletics:
This is our forte and shall continue being for the longest time. A great team assembled but some withdrawals from the 800m pair of David Rudisha and Janeth Jepkosgei ( and injury to Pamela Jelimo) means the star performers are reduced. There are also a couple of star athletes who gave the Games a miss for one reason or the other.

Ezekiel Kemboi – Kenya’s Team Captain & 3000m medal prospect

Men 
800m:- (Silver) ; 1500m:-(Gold & Silver) ; 3000m:-(Gold & Silver) ; 5000m:- (Silver) ; 10000m:-(Bronze)
4x400m:- (Bronze) ; Marathon (none)
Women
800m:- (none); 1500m:-(Gold); 5000m (Gold); 10000m (Silver)
Total Count : 4 Gold 5 Silver & 2 Bronze

Swimming:
This is ahead of traditional boxing because for the first time we have real medal prospects in the name of the Dunford ( David & Jason) brothers. Hoping the Australians, Britons and Canadians have a bad day in the temperate conditions of the Asian sub-continent, 1 silver; 1 bronze  (make that 1 gold & 1 silver and a bronze) look like possibilities.

Boxing:
With the team heavily depleted and lacking in technical expertise, we don’t foresee any medal hopes here. There might a chance of a Quarter-finalist at best.

Rugby:

Kenya 7s rugby team – courtesy of orange.co.ke 

We have a great 7-a-side team playing great rugby and impressing on the IRB Sevens circuit. But when you have such powerhouses as New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Samoa and others such as Wales and England, any medal hopes quickly vanish.The instability drawn from the team’s selection and fairly average performance in the IRB 7s 2009-10 season also slow down any progress we would have made. Don’t underrate our boys though, at least they will pull one or two upsets. Check out this blog for more analysis on the Kenyan rugby team www.rugbykenya.blogspot.com.

While we are represented in at least 6 other disciplines, none of these shall attract any medals and thus in all fairness ends our hopes. Sceptics we maybe but that’s what the reality of the team’s preparations put us. In total we foresee a total medal haul of 4 Gold, 6 Silver and 3 Bronze. Any bets on this? Sunday 3rd October the Games begin….for updates check the official site here http://www.cwgdelhi2010.org/.

Boxing: Hit Squad – More Misses than Hits

The week is proving to be depressing for us sports people. Another disappointing outing in our national team representing the country in the World Amateur Boxing Championships. The team had 10 boxers representing us in all the weight categories except the Super-heavyweight category.
Getting it clear is the fact that we didn’t have national trials where the team is supposed to be picked from. Since the Amateur Boxing Association of Kenya was formed, I think this is the first time they did such an amateurish move, going for an international event.FIRST WRONG !
Secondly, the team ought to have attended the continental championships in July but I guess these guys were in some ‘boot camp’ busy training for the World Championships. They may have had ( they thought) what it takes to challenge major boxing kings such as Cuba and Russia to both individual and team titles. SECOND WRONG!
Well 2 wrongs don’t make a RIGHT and we were bundled out in humiliation in the first round.
Where do we fish our sports officials from? When did we decide to hand-pick teams for representing us? How well-equipped were they before leaving the country? Do we even have the necessary technical expertise to have a local national circuit for boxers, or are we still tied to the archaic ways of pugilism from the 1980s?
Back in the day, the Kenyan team was one of the major powerhouses in the ring and this culminated in the first African boxing gold in one Robert Wangila Napunyi-in the Welterweight Division. Well, I guess we reached the zenith and decided to slumber which we have never woken up from.

Oh how I miss the Hit Squad of them days: the Dick Murungas, Philip Waruinges,Patrick ‘Mont’ Wawerus, Steve Mwemas, Mohamed ‘Bodi’ Orungis and the Napunyis of their time.