BY MARY KIMONYE
The character of a nation is defined by the collective values and achievements of its people; citizens of extraordinary character who give beyond themselves for the greater good.
Kenya’s bedrock is found in the story of its people; a diverse cross-section of people who have all played a role in our nation’s history. Our athletes top this list. Other than shaping Kenya’s history our athletes have also shaped the image of our country. They are our nation brand ambassadors, who eat, live and breathe the brand. These are heroes who connect and engage with, global audiences and have well-established presence across the world.
Undoubtedly, our athletes are world famous for their resilience, endurance and clinical finishes. The style and finesse of our runners goes as far back as 1964 in Rome, when Kenya tested the waters and won her first medal in the Olympics. Wilson Kiprugut’s bronze medal in the 800m race opened the score sheet for Kenya. Four years later in the 1968 Mexico games, Naphtali Temu won Kenya’s first ever gold medal. His win in the 10,000m race, marked Kenya’s triumphant entry into the big league.
In the 1968 Olympics, Kipchoge Keino displayed tenacious will power and determination, to go on and win a race that he had already dropped out of due to illness. The strong desire to win nudged him out of his hotel room, from where jogged to arrive at the stadium just before the start of the 1500m race. Kipchoge won the race a clear 20m ahead of the pack to win the much acclaimed gold medal. This motivated other young Kenyans to take up athletics as national duty.
Kenyans have since displayed skill and bravery from the 1972 Olympics in Munich to the Olympics in games in Beijing in 2008, where the late star studded Samuel Wanjiru won Kenya’s first ever Olympic marathon gold. Kenya won 6 gold medals, 4 silver and 4 bronze medals at the 2008 games. At the 2012 London Olympics Ezekiel Kemboi gave Kenya the first gold medal. David Rudisha broke his own world record to claim another gold in the 800metres.
This year Eliud Kipchoge became the 11th Kenyan to win the London Marathon. Kenyans won all the top 5 positions at the men’s London Marathon. Kipchoge led a Kenyan clean sweep of the podium places as he won the men’s London Marathon on Sunday in a time of two hours, four minutes and 41 seconds. The final mile saw Kipchoge, the Chicago Marathon champion, sprint past defending London Marathon champion Wilson Kipsang who was eying his third win after victories in 2012 and 2014. World record-holder Dennis Kimetto finished third. Stanley Biwott finished fourth. Kenya’s Carolina Rotich won the 2015 women’s race Boston.
Since the IAAF World Youth Championships began in 1999, Kenya has finished in the top two on the medals table at all but one edition. Their exemplary performance came in 2009 when they topped the table with six gold medals, seven silver and one bronze. Team Kenya finished fourth during the 2013 event with 11 medals: five gold, four silver and two bronze.
This year, Kenya successfully defended its Africa Youth Championships 3,000m title when Emily Chebet crushed the girls’ field in a record-breaking feat in Mauritius. Kenya wrapped up competition with eight gold, eight silver and two bronze medals. Kenya selected a team of 47 athletes for the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships to be held in Beijing from August 22 to 30. The selections came after a two-day riveting action, where new champions were born.
The achievements of athletes are undisputable. Their commitment and passion is admirable. Even after winning, they continue to improve on their strengths and skills to remain competitive. To them, winning is not just for personal glory but for the nation too. For this, we salute them. Lets us celebrate our athletes as they stamp their mark on the world map of sports.
Kimonye is the Chief Executive Officer, Brand Kenya Board