Columnists

Let’s up our game in other sports to the athletics level

Fred Kerley, Ferdinand Omanyala and Akani Simbine in Brussels Diamond League

Fred Kerley of the US (centre) sprints to finish next to Kenya's Ferdinand Omanyala (left) and South Africa's Akani Simbine during the men's 100 metres event at The Diamond League AG Memorial Van Damme athletics meeting at The King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on September 3, 2021.

peter ndegwa

Summary

  • At the World Athletics Under-20 Championships, which featured over 100 countries, Kenya topped the medals table with 16 accolades including eight gold, one silver and seven bronze medals.
  • This indicates that we can raise the bar even higher at the next Olympics given the great performance of our young athletes.
  • At the Tokyo Olympics, Kenya was the best African nation and 19th overall with 10 medals — four gold, four silver and two bronze medals.

In the last few months, Kenya's sports scene has experienced a flurry of activity — from hosting world class events including the World Athletics Under-20 Championships and the Safari Rally, which made a return to the World Rally Championship, to emerging 19th globally at the Olympics.

As one of the biggest backers of sports in the country, Safaricom was delighted to have supported each of these events. Not only did the country successfully host the two global attractions, but our track athletes proved once again that when it comes to middle and long-distance running, we remain the team to beat.

At the World Athletics Under-20 Championships, which featured over 100 countries, Kenya topped the medals table with 16 accolades including eight gold, one silver and seven bronze medals.

This indicates that we can raise the bar even higher at the next Olympics given the great performance of our young athletes.

At the Tokyo Olympics, Kenya was the best African nation and 19th overall with 10 medals — four gold, four silver and two bronze medals.

It was such a moment of pride for all of us when our national anthem was played twice at the closing ceremony- thanks to our exceptional male and female marathoners led by one of our most decorated long-distance runners, Eliud Kipchoge!

This year also witnessed one of our sprinters, Ferdinand Omanyala, reach the Olympics semi-finals of the 100 metres — a new milestone for Kenya, which traditionally performs well in middle and long-distance races.

Not surprisingly all the medals at both events came from the track athletes. As a matter of fact, of the 113 Olympic medals we have won since 1956, 106 have come from athletics. The other seven, including one gold medal, have come from boxing.

When I was watching the Olympics closing ceremony, one of the things I noted is that the countries that performed exceptionally well had the largest teams, in terms of competitors, participating in different events.

For example, the US, which was top of the medals table, had 613 athletes competing in 35 disciplines. China, which came second, had more than 400 competitors in 30 events.

Kenya had 85 competitors; 40 of them being track and field athletes. We were also represented in boxing, volleyball, taekwondo, swimming and rugby sevens.

I believe we can perform even better in future if we expand the scope of our participation while investing more in the other five that we participated in but did not do as well.

For example, we have cyclists who race regularly but lack a holistic programme that is targeted at developing them to represent our country in global competitions.

Another sport that caught my attention was Archery. There were five gold medals up for grabs at the Olympics with South Korea winning 4 of them.

Kenya lost all the qualifying rounds at the 2019 All Africa Games, losing all the Olympics slots available. The reason given by one of the competitors was a lack of funds.

From the two decades of supporting sports, it is possible for our athletes to get into even more disciplines if the public and private sectors come together to grow talents and ambitions.