Learn from Tokyo Games

Kenya signed off the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games campaign yesterday in style, finishing as the top country in Africa and 19th overall in the global sports bonanza in Japan.

The United States topped the table standings at the 17-day quadrennial Games with 113 medals, followed by China with 88 and the hosts 58. Kenya won 10 medals — four gold, three silver and three bronze.

The legendary Eliud Kipchoge cemented his legacy as the greatest marathoner of all time, crowning his dominant performance on the streets of Sapporo by retaining the men’s marathon title on the final day of competition.

Other Kenyan gold medallists are Faith Chepng’etich, who retained the women’s 1,500 metres title, Emmanuel Rotich and Peres Jepchirchir. The silver medallists are Brigid Kosgei, Ferguson Rotich, Hellen Obiri and Timothy Cheruiyot and the bronze medallists Hyvin Kiyeng and Benjamin Kigen.

The team’s tenacity in the face of difficult preparations for the Games, which were postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, is admirable. But Kenya threw away a rich history in the men’s steeplechase, in which it has won a gold medal in every edition since the 1968 Mexico Olympics except in the 1976 Montreal and 1980 Games which it boycotted. A collective cloud of gloom descended on the country when Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali won the gold medal.

There is hope, though, in the sprints. University student Ferdinand Omanyala became the first Kenyan to qualify for the semi-finals in the men’s 100m race. He, however, narrowly missed out on the final. The national women’s volleyball team showed remarkable improvement. However, both the men and women’s rugby teams need to pull up their socks.

Kenyans should invest more in sports and diversify for a better medal catch. The country’s best results at the largest multi-sport event was during the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil, in which it won 13 medals and finished 13th overall.

Other countries have gone to great lengths to grow their sports. Let us pick the lessons learnt in the Tokyo Olympics and make a strong comeback at the 2024 Paris Games.