Perhaps more than anything else, Kenya is known worldwide for its track and field athletes. Since the 1960s, it has produced more world-class athletes, world record holders and Olympic medallists in long-distance running than any other country.
Kenya’s track and field fame dates back to 1951, when Kenya Amateur Athletics Association (KAAA) was formed. It soon became apparent that Kenya had a reservoir of talent which, if tapped, could produce several world class runners.
However, by the 1972 Munich Olympics, Kenya’s 4x400 metres relay team surprisingly beat the fancied European teams to the gold medal, a record that stands to date. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, four years ago, Kenya was ranked 15th with 13 medals — six gold, six silver medals and a bronze — a major improvement in its Olympics performance.
2020 Tokyo Games
Although the delayed 2020 Tokyo Games started on a rather unfortunate scenario, the suspension of an athlete due to doping allegations, Team Kenya finally moved up the medal table. The athletes ably represented the country with incredible record-breaking exploits, although it still seemed hard for Kenya to register a better result compared to Rio.
To ensure better results in the Olympics, particularly, the country should not only focus on long races and field events but also tap talent in other sports so that the country is represented in as many sports disciplines as possible. That will improve the medal tally for the country since more participants means better chances of winning more medals.
It is, however, a great improvement that Kenya was represented in other sports — such as beach volleyball, boxing, swimming, judo and the men’s 100-metre semi-final race. Government should, therefore, improve its funding to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Heritage so that more infrastructure can be put in place to boost sports.
The government is always focusing on pitches and tracks, forgetting swimming pools, basketball, handball, hockey courts and gyms so that athletes and other people who are passionate about the sports can train hard and even represent the country on the global arena.
The sprints, or short races, should also be encouraged because it is now clear that Kenyans are capable of doing well in these races.
Ferdinard Omanyala broke the national record when he set a personal best time of 10.00 seconds in the men’s 100m race. That should challenge upcoming sprinters to run under 10 seconds to break the record and dispel the notion that Kenya can only excel in long-distance races.
I believe the new competency-based curriculum (CBC) of education will encourage students to focus more on their talents and we will have more athletes fly the national flag at international competitions.
Chadwick Michura, Kisumu