Monday, 2 August 2010

Golden ending for Kenya – Beautiful African Championships

Kenya ended the CAA athletics on a winning note scooping first position in the medals tally. They were followed by Nigeria and South Africa in that order.

The last day of the championships just like Saturday had a full capacity audience.

Grace Wanjiru Njue started Kenya’s winning ways early in the morning winning the women’s 20 Km walk breaking the African record. David Kimutai did not disappoint in the men’s walk coming second.

Milcah Chemos held off her opposition to win Gold in the women’s 3000 m steeplechase. Olympic Champion the absolutely tall Asbel Kiprop stamped his authority on the men’s 1500 distance.

Kenyan men pulled an impressive 1,2,3 clean sweep in the 5,000 m with Yator who had led for most of the race losing out to Edwin Soi at the tape.

The men’s 4×4 relay team who had shown their intention on Saturday with the best time in the heats awed the crowd with their powerful performance.

Maiyo Chelagat Kenya’s only qualifier pulled an unbelievable second in the women’s 400 m hurdle.

Kenya’s “Eldoret express” Janeth Jepkosgei came second in the 800 m to get silver once again in this race after Zahra slipped past her at the line. Her undying Kenyan fans still feel that she will be back to hold the title for as long as the Maputo express – Maria Mutola did.

However Jepkosgei came back to pull Kenya to an unbelievable and unexpected second in the women’s four by four relay.

The athletics championships will be etched in the minds of Kenyans and will be a talking point for many days to come this year. Many of us got for the first time to watch our heroes and heroines do what they do best on the track and keeping the Kenyan flag flying high. We got the chance to watch “international duels” in our “local ground” such as Elegant running superb Linet Masai Vs the fantastic Ethiopian duo of Dibaba &Meselech and the other duel of Vivian Cheruiyot Vs Meseret Defar

We got to discover our potential in shorter races watching the likes of Soi, Mutai, Mutegi, Florence Wasike, Maiyo Jelagat pull winning surprises and put up great unexpected fights in the shorter distances.

We got the chance to watch “Kenya’s trademark winners” men’s steeplechase Matelong, Kemboi and Cherono, men’s 800 David Rudisha, Kirwa and Kivuva, ever dependable Asbel Kiprop, “Eldoret express” Janeth, Soi in 5000 m and Kiprop in 10,000m.

Most of all we got familiarity with other African champions the exciting Nigerian Blessing Okagbare, Hammer throwing Marwa Hussein of Egypt and fantastic Senegalese Amy Sene; The pole vaulting Algerian duo of Larbi Bouraâda and Mourad Souissi who were eventually beaten by fantastic Tunisian Dhouibi Hamidi; Nisrine Dinar the beautiful Morrocan Pole vault winner; the dominant South African shot put duo of Burger Lambrechts and Roelof Potgieter among others.

Despite the partisan and loyal Kenyan crowd it was all in all a beautiful African championship and a beautiful show for the continent.

Lessons learnt:
1. We need a stadium and training grounds dedicated to Athletics so that our teams can use such equipment as the hammer and shot put and the vaults perennially and also for civilian people not in the disciplined forces to use for training.

2. We can run short races there is need to tap this talent

3. We need a youth program to tap talent while they are still in high school

4. We can host international events (despite the fact that AK worked till the last minute to “first aid” the stadium they actually pulled it off) we need to have an allocation to development of these facilities just like we do have for roads and other infrastructure.

5. Finally Kenyans love to watch such events – maybe it is time we considered economics of putting spending power in the people’s pockets so that when there is Rugby sevens, premier league matches all can afford it. Also it would be great to have Athletics events on National days such as Jamhuri, Madaraka day etc. After all I don’t think there is anyone who keeps the Kenyan flag flying as high as our athletic sportsmen and sportswomen do.

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Loving life and living it. “Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” (Mary Anne Radmacher)
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