James Magayi @PeopleSports11
Kenya’s contingent to the 21st edition of Commonwealth Games that concluded yesterday in Gold Coast, Australia returned a not so golden catch following their dismal performance.
The 115-person team yielded just four gold medals, seven silvers and six bronze, a significant drop from their endeavors in Glasgow, Scotland four years ago.
By Kenyan standards, the team failed big time. This shockingly underwhelming return from a nation world renown for its prowess in athletics was, however, not entirely unexpected.
A number of factors hugely contributed to the meager returns from Gold Coast where Kenya finished 14th overall in medal standings and third in Africa behind South Africa (sixth) and Nigeria (ninth).
The 2014 battalion grabbed 10 gold, 10 silver and five bronze medals. Firstly, most if not all, Kenyan athletes run to escape biting poverty at home. As such, the athletes task their agents to enter them into races with big monetary rewards.
Meager earnings from Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is therefore unattractive if not deterrent to most athletes at elite level as they would rather preserve themselves for richer races than ‘waste away’ in the ‘Club’ Games.
A big number of Kenyan elites therefore gave the Club Games a wide berth, opting instead to focus on races with rich rewards like today’s Boston and next Sunday’s London Marathon.
None of the top-tier marathon runners presented themselves for Commonwealth Games selection even after months of pleas from Athletics Kenya. Others just took a break.
As a result, fringe runners and others well past their prime took up the onus of flying Kenya’s flag in Gold Coast. The results were disastrous. Secondly, the timing for this edition’s Club Games was not ideal for the athletes.
This is debatable as new Games records were set and the general performance was just slightly off what would be recorded in Olympics and World Championships.
The track season ordinarily commences in May with global championships staged in or around August when weather conditions are perfect for sporting action.
But the Southern Hemisphere experiences winter in August and April offered the best time for Commonwealth Games to be staged.
As such, the athletes, who would now still have three to four weeks until the start of IAAF Diamond League and World Challenge, were hurried to be in shape for Commonwealth competition.
A lot of big names from the rest of Commonwealth World, not just Kenya skipped the event. The Kenyan contingent was largely not ready for competition.
Thirdly, Kenya’s perennial chaos in the build-up to major championships returned to catastrophic endings. From missing kits to unpaid allowances and unequal treatment, Team Kenya experienced all the horrors witnessed in the past championships.
Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Mohammed Echesa and Principal Secretary Kirimi Kaberia tried to calm the athletes with promises before the team was handed official national flag at State House but one brave athlete ensured President Kenyatta knew their plight.
That was the level of disenchantment in the team. The rise of Uganda as a distance-running nation and the Caster Semenya factor also robbed Kenya of medals, which would otherwise belong to Kenya.
Kenya won both women’s 800m and 1,500m in Glasgow four years ago but the controversial South African was too powerful for Margaret Nyairera in the two laps and Beatrice Chepkoech in mile.
Three gold medals that have traditionally been Kenya’s went to Uganda’s Stella Chesang and Joshua Cheptegei who performed an astonishing smash and grab. The disastrous performance in Gold Coast ought to be a wake up call to Kenya’s waning dominance in athletics.