NAIROBI, September 1- Even the morning chill was not enough to dampen a rousing reception reserved for heroes when part of Team Kenya landed back on home soil on Tuesday after their global conquest at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China.
Top Government officials led by Deputy President, William Ruto, captains of industry, family, relatives, friends, members of the public and even activists keen on lapping the glory turned Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport into a bedlam of frenzied celebration, part choreographed, part manic as confusion reigned.
“This is a tremendous performance and as a Government, we will do our best to support the sport. President Uhuru Kenyatta will host the team for breakfast on Thursday to appreciate them,” the Deputy President stated after receiving the team.
Only three of the country’s seven gold medallist were present, men Javelin star, Julius Yego, shock men 400m Hurdles winner, Nicholas Bett and men steeplechase king, Ezekiel Kemboi, who had returned home earlier after clinching the quadruple.
With Zurich and Brussels IAAF Diamond League legs still to come, most of the track stars flew to Europe to chase circuit honour but that did nothing to stop the red carpet reception accorded to those who returned in a memorable occasion that mirrored the welcome accorded to the class of 2008 Olympics that excelled once again, in Beijing.
Kenya finished top of the world with 16 medals, 7 gold, 6 silver, 3 bronze with Sports Minister, Dr. Hassan Wario, Governors Jackson Mandagor (Uasin Gishu), Cleophas Lagat (Nandi) and Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet) as well as Senators Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Mike Mbuvi (Nairobi) formed the cream of political leadership present.
However, chaos reigned with the apparent lack of coordination with most of the dignitaries expecting the entire squad only to find 30 athletes and 16 officials out of the 52 that travelled.
Carrying the Kenya flag high, Kemboi the most decorated steeplechaser was joined by the flamboyant Nairobi Senator whose self-styled unit, Sonko Rescue Team, tried to run the show in one of the eight stretch limos he had reportedly hired to ferry the athletes.
Emblazoned with ‘Hotbed of Medals’ the new slogan for the all-conquering Team Kenya, the decked out vehicles, traditional dancers, dignitaries running helter-skelter and all national televisions broadcasting the event live only served to add to the rich sense of the occasion.
It was the turn of Bett who shocked the world to be amazed by the whole hoopla, even missing a ride on one of the limos hired to fellow them as the team that was initially meant to travel on a procession through the Kenyan capital ended up being taken to the Deputy President’s residence.
Speaking on arrival where chanting family members crowned him with a fresh wreath from the traditional Sinendet tree that signifies the return of conqueror, Bett declared he was aiming for further glory at next year’s Olympics in Rio.
“Running from lane nine was not easy but when I did the final hurdle, I pushed harder since I saw I was leading. Now it’s to go back to training hard and aim to make more history at the Olympics. I’m so happy to win because it has shown the country has talent in sprints. I will compete at next week’s Brussels Diamond League Meeting,” the new men 400m hurdles king asserted.
One of the limos had Yego and his infant son; Jarvis with his spouse Sincy riding in another as the convoy poured out of the airport and into the busy Mombasa Road before proceeding to the leafy outskirt of Karen where the Deputy leader resides.
“After starting badly, I knew I had to throw over 90m to Stay in the race. I dedicate this victory to my son who is also a champion. I’m hoping to win Diamond League title so that I can round off the year on a high.
“I will start thinking about Olympics where I want to be a champion,” Yego who was given a bear hug by his wife on touchdown, said he would rest before preparing for the Olympics.
Team manager, Joseph Kinyua, was ecstatic after returning from China for the third time with a resounding performance to boot.
The former Athletics Kenya honorary treasurer led Kenya to the overall title at the 2006 World Juniors before taking the team to the record Olympics performance in 2008 and now, for the first time, Kenya ruled the world at the biennial global track and showpiece at the Chinese capital.
“We were targeting six gold medal and we have come with seven that tells you this was the best team ever. The preparations were on top and the highlight was golds we got from Bett and Yego in the unexpected fields,” the veteran administrator added.
“We will now concentrate on moulding more champions in these events. Yes there were doping claims but that’s a story for another day. We sorted that thing out and sent the girls back home so it did not affect our performance, “Kinyua told.