Wesley Korir at Athletes Association meeting,
photo by Justin Lagat
Our Kenyan correspondent, Wesley Korir, wrote this piece about the athletes association, PAAK, in Kenya.
Athletes’ Association, PAAK, takes root in Kenya, by Justin Lagat
The 9th of July 2014 became a second time that a meeting was convened by Kenyan athletes at the Eldoret University’s sports pavilion. The first one had happened here in January when the athletes had come together to protest against double taxation. This time round, it wasn’t about any protests. It was to sensitize athletes more about the PAAK organization and to conduct the Uasin Gishu regional elections to elect regional leaders. Elections of this nature have been going on in other regions across the country and are yet to be conducted in others.
PAAK is an organization formed by athletes; for the welfare of athletes. It is headed by non-other than marathon world record holder, Wilson Kipsang. Other top national officials in the organization include Geoffrey Mutai, Milka Chemos, among other world top athletes.
“We want all the officials of this organization to comprise of active or recently retired athletes,” Kipsang stressed, mentioning Wilfred Bungei as one example of a retired athlete who has taken up the position of a chairman in the neighboring Nandi County. “The person who knows where the shoe pinches, is the shoe wearer,” he added.
Kipsang urged the newly elected officials in the counties to be professional, diligent and effective in order to ensure that the lives of other athletes in the region are improved, especially those of the upcoming athletes. A seminar for the leaders will be convened sometime soon to elaborate more on that and to equip them more.
According to Wesley Korir, the 2012 Boston marathon winner who is also the spokesman of the organization, the organization was not established in order to fight with any other one in the country, but purposely to address common problems that befall athletes in their careers, create more opportunities for them and to form legal frame works to help athletes know and stand for their rights.
“The only solution to our problems lie in our unity,” said Korir. “That is what I discovered while I approached other legislators to reason out with them on the plight of athletes, especially to do with the question of taxation. No one understands the journey and the suffering the athletes have to undergo before reaching the top. Most people only care about the money the athletes finally get, but not what they do to get them.”
“The main reason why Kenyan athletes excel in marathon running is because they have endured many sufferings in their lives. Who knows of any top Kenyan athlete whose parents were financially well off to such extend of affording a simple vehicle?” Korir asked and none of the athletes assembled at the Eldoret University Pavillion could recall of any. “I even doubt whether Kipsang’s, mine or any other successful athlete’s child will take up running. It is not as easy as others think and it is only the athletes who will understand their own problems.”
“We need to talk with learning institutions in the country to offer scholarships to local athletes, local businesses to sponsor upcoming athletes on the ground and to the government to find a way of rewarding the athletes for branding the country abroad,” said Korir.
The officials who addressed the athletes at the PAAK Uasin Gishu County elections, one after the other, hoped that
Athletics Kenya, which is the national governing body of athletics in the country that apparently appears to be distant from the athletes on the ground, will one day find a way to work with them.
“We need athletes too, to play some role in the athletics governing body in the country. We need them to be part of the elections whenever they are done. We need officials who understand that professional athletes need foreign agents, professional physiotherapists, sports psychologists and coaches to be welcomed and feel free to work with us in our country. Not officials who make it hard for athletes to benefit from such foreign experts,” said Wesley Korir.
This was after Wilson Kipsang had attributed his world record success as partly due to the invaluable advice and treatment from Jeroen Deen, a physiotherapist from the Netherlands who had been working well with most of the top Kenyan athletes in Iten since 2005, but ended up leaving the country immediately after Athletics Kenya issued an ultimatum for all foreigners without work permits to leave the country, and to only to come back and resume assisting the athletes when they have been cleared by the governing body to do so.
PAAK officials and athletes believe that the association will in due time be able to help the athletes in the country in all matters pertaining to their running careers and uplift the sport more in the country.
These are the national PAAK officials:
Chairman; Wilson Kipsang
Vice Chair: Moses Mosop
Secretary: Milcah Chemos
Asst.Gen.Secty: Gilbert Kiplom
Treasurer: Geoffrey Mutai
Public Relation Officer; Ben Chebet
Organizing Secretary; Bisluke Kipkorir
Spokesman: Wesely Korir