Rousing welcome for medallists

World marathon champion Abel Kirui is welcomed home by fellow administration policemen at the Jome Kenyatta International Airport on Monday .Photo/CHRIS OMOLLO

What you need to know:

  • Excitement at JKIA as conquering athletes return home from Berlin

They ran and conquered the world miles away from home, but the celebration reached feverpitch when the national athletics team arrived from Berlin on Monday to a red carpet reception.

Milk and food was plenty, as the locals temporarily forgot hunger problems and need for census count to sing and fete the country’s best runners, causing a stir at the usually busy Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Sports minister Helen Sambili, Police Commissioner Hussein Ali and other top government officials were at hand to welcome the heroes and heroines who raised the country flag high.

Sambili said the government will reward each medallist with the four gold winners pocketing Sh500,000, Sh300,000 for silver while Bronze Medallist will receive Sh200,000.

Kenya finished third overall at the 12th World Championship in Athletics staged in Berlin, Germany after winners United States of America and Jamaica. The team chalked up 11 medals – four gold, five silver and two bronze.

In Africa, Kenya was first with perennial rivals Ethiopia lagging behind in seventh slot with two gold medals from Bekele while South Africa was ninth.

World marathon champion Abel Kirui, the first administration police athlete to win gold for Kenya, his runners-up Emmanuel Mutai and Silvia Kibet (silver 5,000m) were the only medallists who jetted in on Monday while the remaining eight headed to Zurich for the Golden league races on Friday.

“It feels good to have this kind of reception. I have attained one of my goals which was to win in Berlin a world title. Now the focus turns to beating Haile Gebrselassie’s 2:03.59 time. It might be in London next year or Berlin,” he said.

Mutai now aims to go one better at the London Marathon where he has been fourth on two occasions.

“The silver in Berlin was crucial for me and I am really happy,” said Mutai.

However, for Kibet, whose sister Hilda Kibet (the European Cross Countrty Champion runs for Netherlands), said she was happy to break down the Ethiopian resistance and will be eying to repeat the same in Nairobi in May when Kenya host the Africa senior Athletics Championship.

“I was fopurth in Osaka and I realised that it was the final sprint from the Ethiopians that shock me off the medal bracket. I knew exactly what to do and I my final push was enough to get me the silver beating Defer. It feels nice to receive this treatment. But it is also a reminder top us not to rest as the battle comes home next,” she said.