Keith McGhie in Gold Coast @peoplesport11
David Kinja spent almost as much time in his ambassadorial role as out on the sun-kissed 38.5km course after finishing 28th out of 53 starters in the Gold Coast Time Trial but admits he still needs much more help to further the aspirations of Kenyan cycling.
The veteran racer, well-known for his work in the community through disadvantaged youth projects like Safari Simbaz, had just finished the race against the clock in what is his fifth Commonwealth Games.
But rather than reflect on past glories – his own and then discovering and nurturing the talents of four times Tour de France winner Chris Froome over a decade ago, he was keen to speak about his passion for helping others fulfil their potential.
As well as competing to a still high level – he averaged well over 42km per hour over the undulating roads on the southern outskirts of the Queensland city – Kinja also coaches a handful of his rivals, including team-mates in Australia: Peter Waruiru, Salim Kipkemboi, Suleilman Kangangi, plus up and coming Dominican rider Bram Sanderson.
“The ride was quite tough and more windy than I expected,” revealed Kinja, who was first off of the start ramp and sat in the leader’s ‘Hot Seat’ for several minutes before being ‘bumped’ off. “I was expecting to be there longer but some fast times came though in the early stages.”
Kinja is now 46 and while happy to still be competitive, is ready to hand the baton on to his proteges. “What we really need is funding or to find ways of commercialising the sport to get more support on board.
“It’s crazy comparing our equipment with some of the top guys here – we are always lagging behind in terms of technology and funding for the equipment. “Not everyone in Kenya understands cycling because they look at the cost of the bikes which keeps going higher.
“We are not envious of the runners as we need their success but we feel we need to diversify and expand other sports like cycling in order to be competitive at Olympic and Commonwealth Games.”
Facilities are still poor but Kinja insists: “The roads in Kenya are not the problem, it is the funding because a lot of the kids come from broken families and we cannot keep them away training because they are not earning.
“We need equipment and funding but also help from outside Kenya with teams coming to Africa, inspiring our youngsters and showing them what is possible.”
“People ask, when are we going to see another Chris Froome come out of Kenya but it also takes a special character to get where he is.” Eldoret-born Kinja was brought up in Mombasa but now lives just outside Nairobi.
Unusually, the instantly likeable Kenyan was only the second oldest at the time trial, with Antigua’s Jeffery Kelsick almost 17 months his senior, but the next Games in 2022 might be a bridge too far. “Maybe I’ll go to Birmingham as a coach or technical director,” he mused.
“More importantly I hope there is funding from the Federation to help youngsters qualify for Olympic and Commonwealth Games.”
Kinja finished yesterday’s event in a time of 54 minutes, 35.62 seconds and next contests Saturday’s road race, also based at Currumbin Beachfront, along with his three compatriots. Cameron Meyer added to Australia’s burgeoning medal tally with gold in a time of 48:13.04.