Athletics in Kenya now seen in brighter light after Beijing World Championships, A view from Kenya, by Justin Lagat


Yego_JuliusWL-WorldCH15.jpgJulius Yego, photo by

Julius Yego woke many up with his fine throwing this season. A young man who took up the javelin, an event totally foreign to Kenyan athletes, and became the very best in the world, Julius Yego is an example of the varied talent in the country of Kenya. From middle distance running to long distance running, from the 400 meter hurdles to the javelin, Kenyan athletes are spreading their wings, and trying new events and new generations of athletes in Kenya are considering athletics.

In that same framework, Justin Lagat notes that the battle to control drug cheating has recieved support from the country's leaders, which is critical if the sport is not to be destroyed by this evil. Funding, consistent testing and draconian punishments are key to crushing the danger that doping can do to our sport.

Here is Justin's fine column from last week.

Athletics in Kenya now seen in brighter light after Beijing world championships by Justin Lagat
Shortly after Kenya finished on top of the world at the medal standings during the 15th IAAF world championships in Beijing, there has been a great recognition of the athletes in the country. Many things have rapidly taken place in the last few days to show that.
The heroic welcome, great media coverage of the athletes and the shift the government has now taken to use athletics to market Kenya as a sports destination are some of the changes seen.
During and after the world championships, the Kenyan public exceedingly felt proud of their athletes. The Social media in Kenya, the entire time of the world championships, was filled with hash tags that showed it all; #thekenyanspirit, #hotbedofmedals and #magicalkenya among others were trending.
Prominent people in the Kenyan government have now also seen the great need to join and support the athletes in the war against doping in sports, having seen how clean athletes can become great ambassadors to the country. Both the president and his deputy are among the leaders who sent congratulatory messages and also called for action to ensure that those found aiding athletes to dope should be prosecuted.
With hard economic times and the challenges of trying to get employment, many youths in Kenya are now considering pursuing athletics as a way for them to earn a living. Sometimes, messages get through to my FaceBook page from youths who know little about athletics, but have desires to shine too.
Some simply ask brief questions that need many questions back at them before knowing exactly what to explain to them. One would ask, "I think I am talented in running, how can I begin training for the Olympics?" Another one would ask, "When are they selecting the team to the next Olympic Games? I am interested," among many others.
In the past, much focus was being given to education by schools and the general public in Kenya, and sports were being neglected. I remember in my high school, one had to get a special permission from the games teacher before he could be allowed to do regular morning and evening runs. But things are now changing. In fact, sports is slowly becoming a way for youths from poor backgrounds who are not able to afford the cost of education to earn a living for themselves and even finally get money to go back to school in the long run too.
The local delicacy of the Kalenjin Community, where all the seven gold medals came from, also came into focus.
"Mursik", which is typically fermented milk, received more publicity as the heroic athletes drank them as they arrived at the airport, and a local TV channel documented an entire process on how the drink is made. It made me wonder, as I watched the documentary; perhaps, the secret lies in the process of making the drink and not in the nutritional contents.
Kenyan athletes are now being held at a higher pedestal by the public going into the Rio Olympics next year. Anything less than the best from them will not be taken well. However, these athletes are also now highly charged by their great performances in Beijing.
They now believe they can be the best in the world, not only in the long and middle distance running events, but also in Javelin Throw, 400m Hurdles and other events that they may decide to pursue.
With Julius Yego now featuring in TV commercials and Ezekiel Kemboi's images appearing on billboards, slowly by slowly, Kenyans are beginning to appreciate their athletes and the sport is getting more famous across the country.

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