From Oregon to Birmingham, athletes uniting Kenyan nation

Ferdinand Omanyala

Africa 100 metres champion and record holder Ferdinard Omanyala goes through accreditation on Friday after he arrived in Birmingham where he looks forwards to put behind his Oregon tribulations at the Commonwealth Games and making Kenya proud again.

Photo credit: NOC-K

What you need to know:

  • Sports stars will be inspiring us as a people living in diversity in a great nation

With the World Athletics Championships drawing to a close in Eugene, Oregon, today, we are swiftly switching gears as Sunday also marks just five days to the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.

The Games are timed right when the country is preparing for the General Election with campaigns being aggressively pursued all over the nation. The Birmingham Games will draw to a close just a day before the August 9 General Elections.

Cognizant of this, and coupled with the recent history of elections in Kenya, The National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K, which is also the Commonwealth Games Association of Kenya) coined the running theme for the Games as: #TeamKenya  and #InspiringTheNation.

From humble backgrounds

This campaign is to remind the nation of the dedication, resilience and adaptability of the athletes, which is synonymous to the characteristic of the Kenyan citizen.

The success of the Kenyan athlete brings hope to millions back home, especially the humility of the stories of our great athletes.

Two names have been on peoples’ lips these the past few weeks — Angela Okutoyi and Ferdinand Omanyala.

Okutoyi and her Dutch playing partner Rose Marie Klopjen became the first Kenyan, man or woman, to win a Grand Slam when they took the doubles title at Wimbledon recently.

Omanyala is now the fastest man in Africa, having bagged the African Championships’ 100 metres title and has been holding the world lead times over the distance in the first half of the year.  

The story of these two athletes is told, coming from humble backgrounds, getting through a myriad of challenges and making it to the top of the world, with little resources but with great talent and hard work.

Every athlete is always a championship away from greatness. These two are just a representative of the very many sports people who despite very many challenges make it to fly the Kenyan flag.

As NOC-K and the media strive to tell the story of the Kenyan athlete, what comes out is that most of the athletes travelling to Birmingham  have had such journeys.

Journeys of passion, dedication and resilience, and when the opportunity to represent the flag is given, they run with it, they show their dedication with every tackle, with every smash, every breath and with lots of sweat. And this is the story of many a Kenyan citizen.

Our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic was driven by our competitiveness, and even now with harsh economic times, and the anxiety of a general election, we hope the success and humility of our great athletes participating in the Commonwealth Games brings hope to millions back home.

Our athletes take inspiration from Kenya’s unique strengths as a country through its beauty and resilience of its people. In turn they serve to lift the spirits nationwide through their performances.

The athletes also inspire the nation to participate in sports, to be inclusive and to challenge perceptions.

The first Kenyan contingent to Commonwealth Games left on Friday evening, gearing up for a strong performance at the Club Games that start on Thursday.

Kenya is going into these Games, as a leading country among the 72 nations and territories participating, with 50/50 gender inclusion in the strong team of 127 athletes, inspiring the possibility of an equal and equitable nation. A country where everyone has an opportunity, and each gender is celebrated and supported to do their best.

Force in the Paralympics

The Team Kenya representation of persons with disability in power-lifting, basketball and athletics will bring hope to the hundreds of thousands of persons living with disability in the country.

To the kids who suffered disability as a result of polio, to lift up their spirits that they too can go on and be great, just like 29-year-old Hellen Wawira, the recently crowned Para Pan-American Open Champion in Para Power-lifting (upto 41kgs).

Para power-lifting does not require mobility and it can be practiced almost anywhere, what if more disabled persons are encouraged to take up the sport? Kenya could rise to be a force in the paralympic sports world.

With the athletes representing grassroots sports, representing their local clubs and local gyms, these Games will highlight the important role grassroots clubs underpinning the performance pathway of elite sports.

These clubs need to be proud, and be motivated to do even more, and the community to discover the joy of participating in a sport.

As they march at the Opening Ceremony next Friday, flying the Kenyan flag, wearing Kenyan colours proudly, as they compete — and for those who will have podium finish and ultimately have our national anthem played, listened to and watched by millions — they will be inspiring us as a people living in diversity in one great nation, Kenya.

And when they land a punch, make a try, or clear a hurdle, we will be united in celebration.

Mutuku is the Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya. [email protected]