NAIROBI, Kenya, August 1- The national Paralympics team preparing for their London 2012 Games received a shot in the arm when they were promised Sh1m for any gold winner in a landmark development on Wednesday.
Communications firm Safaricom also pledged Sh600,000 for each silver with bronze medallists receiving Sh300,000 for their podium effort in a similar reward scheme to that awarded to their counterparts who are competing at the Summer Games in the same city.
Triple Paralympics gold medallist and team Henry Kirwa was elated with the announcement and promised they are determined to surpass their performance in the Beijing event where they won five gold, three silver, one bronze for position 27 overall.
He exuded confidence the squad of 14 that includes another triple Paralympics gold winner and record holder, Henry Wanyoike was well prepared for the London duty in the competition that kicks off on August 29.
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka was the chief guest during the fete where he called upon more recognition for Paralympians whom he felt have been overshadowed by the main Olympics team.
“As you board that flight to London; you are going not just as individuals but as representatives of this country.
“Remember that the aspirations and dreams of many men and women rest with you. Therefore, as you get onto that track or that field, though you may not see us or hear us, I can assure we will be cheering you on as you fly the Kenyan flag high,” the Vice President urged.
Safaricom Chief Executive, Bob Collymore said the pledge was meant to motivate a great performance.
“It’s an accepted fact that our society has very low expectations of the persons with disabilities, I believe the Paralympics give us the opportunity to change this perception.
“The event is about inspiring hope and determination so that people don’t see the limits, that’s why we are recognising these athletes as been worthy of appreciation as able bodied athletes,” he added during the luncheon he hosted in the team’s honour.
He disclosed his firm had paid out Sh12.8 to medallists in the Beijing Paralympics squad.
Jairus Ogola, chair of the Kenya National Paralympics Committee, noted the team has improved over the years but called for more development to tap the talent spread across the country.
“We had over 26 athletes that had qualified but since like our able bodied compatriots we are rated in the A standard and only 14 will travel.
“We are ranked with nations countries such as USA, Canada and China hence its vital to spot other potential athletes and give them a better future as we embark on the next edition in Rio, in 2016,” he affirmed.
He decried the low funding for team sports that has seen the current contingent comprise mainly track athletes denting the prospects of a bigger medal tally.
“We had a Wheelchair Basketball team but due to the lack of investment, we couldn’t go far which poses a challenge to stakeholders to assist us provide more athletes the opportunity to participate in the Paralympics,” he stressed.
The team is training at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani and will depart the country on August 13, for a one-week training at the Bristol camp before moving to the Olympic village on August 22 ahead of the opening ceremony.