Sports Principal Secretary Kirimi Kaberia turned into a choir-master when triumphant Team Kenya athletes landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Monday night.
Kaberia, alongside other top government officials including Chief Administrative Secretary Hasana Noor were at the airport to receive the team following a testing one week in Asaba, Nigeria in which Kenya won the overall title at the 21st edition of the Africa Senior Athletics Championships.
He broke into song and dance when invited to address the athletes and soon everyone joined in as curious travellers looked from a distance. He later composed himself and handed each member of the team roses and treated the team to dinner at Nairobi’s Weston Hotel.
The Kenya Airways Dreamliner ferrying the team from Lagos to Nairobi delayed for two hours while waiting for the team to make its way from Asaba. Hundreds of family and friends were at the arrivals terminal to receive the athletes with traditional songs and popular Kalenjin fermented milk “mursik.”
A major spotlight was on 3,000m steeplechase record holder Beatrice Chepkoech who won her first career gold medal in athletics after several failed attempts over the distance as well as the 1,500m. She had the biggest group waiting to receive her.
The usually reserved and media shy 27-year-old was mobbed by over 20 family members and friends. Chepkoech was among the 11 gold medallists in Asaba and has been tipped to conquer the upcoming Inter Continental Cup in September.
“I promised my parents my first gold medal and I’m just glad I won it for them. I did not think all those people would come just for me. I’m happy but its a bit embarrassing,” she said.
Kenya’s head coach Stephen Mwaniki narrated to People Daily how he masterminded the African conquest to steer the country to a fourth continental title.
Two-time Africa high jump champion Mathew Sawe, however, missed the carnival as he failed to travel with the team. Sawe had a problem with his ticket and had to board a different flight that arrived later.
“As an experienced tactician, I knew that for my team to win this championship, we had to get medals in the field events. We are traditionally strong in the track and were assured of success in middle and long distances,” said Mwaniki.
The government promised to expedite the payment of athletes’ allowances. “You have made us proud by winning in Nigeria and we want to keep our end of the bargain because it is easier for us to make you proud than it is to win gold and make us proud,” said Noor.