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Is Kiplagat’s race run after failed IAAF VP bid?

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AK boss, Isaiah Kiplagat, who failed in his bid to win one of the four IAAF Vice-President posts. PHOTO/File
AK boss, Isaiah Kiplagat, who failed in his bid to win one of the four IAAF Vice-President posts. PHOTO/File

NAIROBI, August 12- Long-serving Athletics Kenya (AK) chief, Isaiah Fundi Kiplagat failed in his bid to be elected world body IAAF vice-president during Wednesday’s elections in Beijing.

Kiplagat who has led AK with an iron fist and brooking no dissent since 1992, was among the seven candidates who offered themselves for four available vice-presidency posts having served in the IAAF Council since 1999.

He came last in the race for the vice-presidency seat which attracted seven candidates with 64 votes.

“All candidates from nations who produce athletes lost in this elections. Africa was not a winner,” Kiplagat, who promised to issue a more comprehensive statement later, said in Beijing after the polls.

Ukrainian pole vault legend Sergey Bubka, 51, who lost in the presidency race to Lord Seb Coe, polled the highest votes 187 to retain his vice-presidency.

Al Hamad Dahlan of Qatar (159), Malboum Kalkaba of Cameroon (115) and former 800m world record holder from Cuba, Alberto Juantorena Danger (111) secured enough votes to grab the three remaining vice-presidency votes.

Kiplagat also lost his Council Member seat signalling the end of an era for the septuagenarian administrator who has bestrode the Kenyan athletics scene like a collosus, heading the local federation uninterrupted for 23 years.

Other candidates for the number two job, Bernard Amsalem of France and Canadian Abby Hoffman scored 108 and 96 ballots in that order.

Another long-serving AK boss and vice-president, David Okeyo, also lost the chairmanship of the Cross Country Committee to Carlos Cardoso with 94 against 80 votes although he retained his membership as a Committee Member.

IAAF Regional Development Centre boss for East and Central Africa and former Boston Marathon champion, Ibrahim Hussein was also unsuccessful in his quest to win the Technical Committee chairmanship while Joseph Ochieng lost in the race for a seat as a Race Walking Committee Member.

It was not all gloom for Kenya after first-term AK vice-president, Fatuma Abdalla won a seat in the Women’s Committee continuing her stellar rise in the sports ranks having joined the national federation’s top brass at the 2012 elections.

“I’m so humbled by this achievement and thank all that voted for me,” the overwhelmed Abdalla who hails from Coast said after her pioneering victory as the first Kenyan woman to serve in the top echelons of the sport.

As regional politics came to play in the run-up to the elections pitting Francophone and English speaking African nations, Kiplagat attempted to prompt Kalkaba to step down from the race in his favour ahead of the elections but the Confederation of African Athletics boss declined the proposal.

“Kalkaba declined to step down for me but that is not a problem. We can each vie for the post but only one African will likely get a seat. There are four positions and there is the likelihood of Abby stepping down and Bubka is running for the presidency.

“That will leave four of us but there is still a lot to do to convince delegates to vote for me and to an extent, Kenya,” Kiplagat, who was also in contention to retain his seat as a member of the IAAF Council he has held for over a decade and a half said in May.

He went on a three month sabbatical as AK boss effective May 1 to focus on his campaigns with retired Army chief, Lt.Gen Jack Tuwei taking the Riadha House AK headquarters hot seat and has since kept to the background in federation matters.

Kiplagat had promised to relinquish his position as the country’s athletics boss after 23 should his bid for IAAF presidency succeed and it remains to be seen what his next step will be after Wednesday’s outcome.

“If I succeed; then those acting will be confirmed but even if I don’t, I’m sure they will be confirmed because it may not be necessary for me to come back anyway. So in any case I remain a member of the Council of IAAF and I will still be an Executive Member of AK,” Kiplagat who succeeded the late Paul Boit in 1992 announced on April 13.

He is hinged his campaigns for the IAAF seat on grassroots development, new formats and events, athlete welfare and education and a drug free sport in his manifesto.

Kiplagat, who was at the centre of a bitter push to cede power by 14 of the 16 regional affiliates of the federation earlier this year, is credited with turning AK from a nondescript organisation to the most endowed national body in Kenya.

He weathered the latest storm to his reign and added pressure of the doping scandal that threatens to bring down the nation’s most successful sporting export to set the process of his elongated succession in his true uncompromising style.

-Vehement resistance-

His first attempt to leave office and hand Tuwei the reigns in 2010 when he was indisposed failed when fellow members of the national executive vehemently resisted the move, with the interim leader coming fourth in the vote for vice-presidents during the 2012 AK elections.

“Last year those wrangles were there, the same people complained and we meet here and even went to Naivasha and we reconciled. They are raising the same things again.

“I think the new issue they brought up is that they are complaining I’m old but I’m telling them I’m not a stone, at some stage I will leave, its only hills and stones which remain where they are,” the AK boss who has rode many a storm in his iron-fisted rule said at the time.

The wily administrator who has been involved at the top leadership of athletics since 1968, stole a march on his rivals when a case filed by South Rift chair, Abraham Mutai and five respondents restrained disgruntled AK members from convening the SGM either on November 14, 2014 or on any other date pending the hearing and determination of the dispute that is still being heard at Nairobi’s Milimani High Court.

“Maybe the problem is about my succession but I’m telling them to take things slowly, there are people who are running so fast, I will leave but when time comes because I was elected by the delegate and I have two more years to go but for now we should work in harmony and serve the athletes of this country,” the long serving boss accused his critics.

Events in Beijing however, could just be what was needed to finally persuade and convince the grand old colossus of the sport that his race is run and retire to his vast Ndalat Gaa Estate in Eldoret.

But throughout his active administrative life, he has proven to be the unmatched master of reinvention and never knowing when to give up in an inspiration show of determination that has seen him weather all thrown at him meaning its foolhardy to write him off yet.

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