In three weeks, top runners who have spent a lot to travel to the capital to use the ideal surface for track competition and speed work will have the important facility at their door step at the self declared ‘University of Champions’ Iten.
This follows a landmark partnership between the Government and the Lornah Kiplagat Sports Academy that is currently under construction in Elgeyo-Marakwet County on Tuesday which among other world class amenities includes the all important tartan track, the first outside Nairobi.
Under the deal, national team to events such as World Championships and Olympics will be training for the competitions at the complex as opposed to being based in Nairobi where the Moi International and Nyayo National stadiums were the only arenas with the desired surface.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, the foundation’s founder, former world women half marathon record holder and three time World Half gold winner, Lornah Kiplagat said, the tartan track that will cost over Sh100 million ($1,179,900) should be ready for use in three weeks time.
“The whole idea about the sports academy is that for many years, it has been my dream to have a place where we can combine sports and academics, the facility will be unique not only in Kenya but also in Africa.
“Without the Government coming in to support the project, we could have not made it this far,” the 2007 women’s World Cross Country champion, now a Dutch citizen, said.
Olympics 3000m Steeplechase champion, Ezekiel Kemboi, speaking on behalf of athletes, urged the ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture to ensure the refurbishment of Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret, another epicentre of athletics talent in the country, is complete as soon as possible so that runners from the region can access the track for training.
Kemboi’s sentiments were echoed by Athletics Kenya, Football Kenya Federation and Kenya Volleyball Federation officials who urged refurbishment of existing stadiums and construction of five new ones, as promised by the Jubilee Government.
Cabinet Secretary for Sports Arts and Culture, Dr. Hassan Wario, urged other counties to emulate Lornah’s project, to help identify and nature talent at the grassroots level.
“We are finalizing a memorandum of understanding of future engagements with Lornah so that other athletes in the region can have access for the facility and we are excited in this programme.
“I encourage those intending to put up youth training centres to ensure they are up to the required standards, as a ministry we need to emphasize on that and come up with the guidelines for setting up standards,” he urged.
The government pumped in Sh7 million towards the project that will cost over Sh1 billion.
This will be the third Sports Center in the country to have a tartar track after Moi International Sports Complex and Nyayo National Stadium.