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Athletes take lion share of State pay-out

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NAIROBI, Kenya, November 10- President Mwai Kibaki on Thursday presented $212,000 (Sh20.28m) in awards to the country’s teams that excelled at the World Championships, All Africa Games and Commonwealth Youth Games.

During the presentation fete held at Nairobi’s Kenyatta International Conference Centre, the Head of State told the world beaters that his government would support their quest for Olympics glory at next year’s edition in London.

“Sports have become extremely competitive. Every country is striving to hire the best coaches, improve their training facilities and equipment using the latest technology in order to improve and polish their performance. We Kenya should not be left behind,” he said.

“We shall be approaching friendly Governments and other development partners to support us to complete and equip these facilities. We shall also continue to steadily increase funding for sports with a view to improving the participation of our people in various sports championships,” he added.

The cash awards under the Government reward scheme launched in 2006 will see the money divided among the 77 medallists at the three events that ran from August through September in Daegu, South Korea, Maputo, Mozambique and Isle of Man in the United Kingdom.

During his speech, the leader challenged local sports federations for bid for and host international championships to capitalise on the excellence displayed the nation’s competitors.

“This will help us market our country as a world sporting nation which will attract sports tourism and inspire our youth to take more interest in sports,” President Kibaki urged.

He pledged his full State support for efforts geared towards setting up the Kenya House in London where the country’s sporting and cultural heritage will be marketed during next summer’s Olympics.

President Kibaki stressed the need to embark on fund raising for the country’s team to the biggest sporting carnival on earth.

“In this regard, I would like to see the proposed National Sports Lottery up and running before the Olympics Games to ensure that we have a reliable source of funding for our various sports disciplines,” he ordered.

The President called upon the Ministry of Tourism, Brand Kenya Board and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to explore ways and means of working together to brand the country using sports.

He said, “As we seek to nurture more sports talent, we must leverage on our sports strength to boost our image globally.”

The Daegu World team brought home seven gold, six silver and four bronze while their All Africa Games counterparts returned 13 gold, 14 silver and 21 bronze. The Commonwealth Youth Games campaigners won four gold, four silver and two bronze.

Among those present to receive their rewards were world champions, Asbel Kiprop (men 1500m), Ezekiel Kemboi (men 3000m steeplechase) and Asbel Kirui (marathon men) where track and field exponents made up the bulk of the recipients.

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