The future of famous athletes who run away from the press, a view from Kenya...


Justin Lagat, our Kenyan senior writer, had a rather frustrating experience with an athlete. The athlete agreed to an interview, and then went silent. No return calls, no texts, no communication. My guess is, this happens to all athletics media writers, and of course, in other fields of journalism. Justin opines on why this may not be the best recourse for some athletes or managers.

NNEthiopia20-025.jpgPhoto by NN running team

The future of famous athletes who run away from the press

When there are no races and people are searching for the latest stories on their favorite athletes, it is perhaps time for some to realize that being a great public figure is not simply about preparing well for a race and winning it. People want to know how these athletes are coping with the COVID pandemic, what other activities they are engaging in while they are not competing, and how well they relate with their families and their communities, among others.

There are great similarities between athletes, musicians, comedians, actors, magicians and motivational speakers; their work is to build a fan base for an event they participate in.

For the almost ten years that I have worked as a freelance journalist, I have learned that it is not only the performances that make athletes famous and role models across the world, but how they relate with other people in the community, especially the media who would share their stories.

There are two types of athletes; those who willingly share their journeys to success, who see an opportunity to motivate and encourage others whenever they meet journalists, or find any other platforms to talk in schools, churches, other gatherings, or even on an individual basis. Then, there are others who only see journalists as people who try to reap where they did not sow by interviewing them and writing their stories for financial benefits. Or, even perhaps, that the media may be taking information from them on how to succeed in life and giving it out to others to succeed like them.

The first group often enjoys many more benefits from their performances, for a longer time, even into their retirement. The second group only enjoys their stardom just for a few days after their performances.

One of the famous coaches I have interviewed a few times is Brother Colm O'Connell, and one thing I took from him is the passion in which he seems to hate the word "secret." To him, there are no secrets involved in running well, other than the athlete having the right attitude, focus, discipline and determination.

To a common fan who has no idea how many phone calls journalists make to some athletes and follow them around trying to get their stories, they will think that some great performing runners are actually being neglected by the media.

So far, some sport-related brands are currently asking athletes to submit their social media sites and any community projects they are involved in to be considered for sponsorships.

As more runners, from different countries, join the sport of running and the marathon distance gets famous, it may reach a time when race organizers will be checking the social media sites of the fast runners before they can be invited to run in their races. This could be the reason why the winning prize money in some races keeps going down while the appearance money keeps going up.

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