Jacob Katonon, with his Uncle and Mother in the town of Eldoret,
by Justin Lagat
Katonon showing where his bone was cracked,
photo by Justin Lagat
Can a man who has set HJ, LJ and TJ records in his country, eighteen years ago, make a successful come back? Justin Lagat thinks so! Read on, kind readers!
Jacob Katonon, Kenya’s 1996 Olympic Triple Jumper is back, by Justin Lagat
RunBlogRun this weekend caught up with one of the greatest Kenyan athletic heroes on the streets of Eldoret, Kenya. Jacob Katonon, the unsung hero, holds three Kenyan records that have stood for about two decades now. These records are; the High Jump’s 2.24m, Long Jump’s 8.12m and Triple Jump’s 17.12m. What is amazing about the records is that he set them at high altitude in Kenya, except for the long jump which he set in South Africa.
He is referred to as a “former” triple jumper who competed at the 1996 Summer Olympics by the Wikipedia and the information about him just end there. But, Katonon says that he is no longer a ‘former’ athlete and is returning to competitive jumping for the next five years before hopefully retiring and taking up coaching in order to make a difference in Kenya’s field events. He made a comeback last week at the Uasin Gishu County Championships by finishing second after registering 13 meters in the triple jump event. Although he had allegedly done 15 meters during his training ahead of the meeting and could only jump 13m due to the conditions of the field. It had rained overnight and the ground was a bit slippery and in fact, the championships were started almost at midday as the officials awaited the track to dry up.
Talking to RunBlogRun, Katonon recounted his childhood life while still a pupil before the now famous Brother Colm O’Connell noticed his talent in the 200m and 100m sprints and in the jumps and enrolled him as a student at St. Patricks school in Iten. Brother Colm then encouraged him to specialize in the field events.
From 1992, he began to shine and got sponsorships to go out and further his jumping skills out of the country of which he got to train mostly in Mauritius and Senegal. His training bore good fruits and he was able to do amazingly setting the area records as well as representing the country in the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada, 1995 World Championships in Sweden and 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia (USA).
His ambitions to rise even higher were cut short in 1996 after returning from the Olympic Games. While preparing for other competitions that were to happen later in the year, he had landed wrongly on his feet and cracked his bone during training. It was a serious injury that laid him off completely and took more than five years to get healed. He had to lease out his own farm land to meet the medical expenses as AK (Athletics Kenya) failed to come to his rescue allegedly because he was injured while out of the national training camp.
It was not until this year when coincidentally, a neighbor’s calf broke loose and ran after the cattle when Katonon offered to help catch it and the neighbor noticed his extra-ordinary talent. He was jumping over high fences chasing the calf. The neighbor in Moiben, Joseph Komen, decided to buy him new training facilities and within no time, he was back again in a competitive form. He hopes to be able to make it to represent Kenya in the triple jump at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but if he fails he definitely will not miss next year’s world championships. He says he still sees a possibility of attacking one of his records within the next five years. His parents and brother, Daniel Katonon, are firmly behind him in this venture and he thanks them. When asked whether he is concerned that he is getting old, he had a simple answer.
“Old is gold,” he said.
Up to date, Katonon is wondering if there is any benefit one gets in holding athletics records as he hasn’t seen any himself. No one even contacts him to talk to other athletes who are interested in doing the events which he has the expertise.
Katonon has three pleas to make to AK, if he gets the chance. That now that he is back in competitive form, he be sponsored to train well again like he did in 1992, he be recognized for the records he holds and that he be trained to become one of the national coaches in the near future.