By Bernard Rotich/Dailynation.co.ke
- Over 100 athletes benefitted from the supply in Kericho, Nandi, Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties
- A town that used to see thousands of athletes training in various groups throughout the day has now been left with businessmen going on with their daily chores
- Many upcoming athletes are now forced to look for manual jobs to make ends meet after their races were either cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic
Contrary to what some may think, not all Kenyan runners are millionaires. In fact, the majority are hustlers, moonlighting on odd jobs while hoping to be noticed by some athletes’ manager or race director who would then catapult them onto the global running circuit. There, they would still struggle to make the big breakthrough into the limelight that stars like Eliud Kipchoge, Mary Keitany, Geoffrey Kamworor and Brigid Kosgei enjoy.
Last week, Olympic marathon champion and world record holder Kipchoge said about 80 percent of athletes in various regions across the country need support because they have always depended on competitions across the globe to put food on their table. Kipchoge was distributing foodstuff on a mission engineered by the Ministry of Sport in which he and his Eliud Kipchoge Foundation are ambassadors.
Over 100 athletes benefited from the supply in Kericho, Nandi, Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties.
The stimulus is gradually being rolled out and other regions, including Eastern, Central and Nyanza, will also benefit, according to Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed who launched the drive last week. On Thursday, we caught up with Pius Komen, a sports officer at the Kenya Universities Sports Association, who also distributed food to some athletes in Iten, Elgeyo-Marakwet County last week.
Iten, dubbed “The Home of Champions,” has seen a reduction in sports action due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A town that used to see thousands of athletes training in various groups throughout the day has now been left with businessmen going on with their daily chores, with only a few athletes zooming past as they follow the government’s directive of social distancing by training alone. Many upcoming athletes are now forced to look for manual jobs to make ends meet after their races were either cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic.
Komen has been helping the athletes out for the last four years.
“I have been helping athletes for the last four years but last week the numbers of the needy increased because many are sleeping without food due to the coronavirus which has literally stopped the sports calendar. I did this from my own budget,” said Komen in Iten on Thursday.
Nation Sport visited one of the construction sites behind the Iten Police Station and to our surprise, some of the workers on site were upcoming athletes who are now doing manual jobs to put food on the table. Some wearing their training and racing shoes, the athletes were busy with various tasks with some saying they had to walk into the construction site immediately after their morning runs so that they didn’t get late for the daily contracts.
The situation on the ground is so bad that some female athletes, also looking for manual jobs to get by, wash clothes for families around the town for a pittance. Rodgers Kiplimo, a road racer, was preparing this season to compete in the Zaragoza 10-kilometre road race in Spain this month, but the race was cancelled due to Covid-19.
He has been forced to suspend his training so that he can work on the construction site to get food and pay rent. He has to be there by 8.00am in the morning and leave at 4.00pm, and earns Sh400 for a day’s work, far less than he would have perhaps earned each second he ran in the Zaragoza race.
“I have been forced to suspend my training so that I can have energy to work at the construction site because it’s a tedious job. “At the end of the day, I need food and the landlord has to be paid by the end of the month,” said Kiplimo who has not been signed by any management.
He is asking well-wishers to come up and support the sportsmen and women by donating food which will sustain them during this hard time because many are in need.
“I would like to urge other well-wishers to also come up and help athletes by donating food because a hungry person cannot go for training,” he said. Sheila Kiplagat, 28, has also been joining the men on the construction site after she couldn’t travel for the Illinois Marathon in USA which was to take place on April 29.
She had done good preparations and was optimistic that she would lower her personal best time, but the virus rudely stopped her ambitions.
“Since last year, I haven’t participated in any race and I was looking forward to doing well this year, but the virus has stopped everything.
“I have been doing manual jobs so that I can be able to get food to sustain me during this period,” said Kiplagat.
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