One of Kenya’s pioneer sprinters is lying on a hospital bed in a desolate condition. Naftali Bonn was taken to Kapsabet Level Five Hospital last Friday where his condition, inside the Nyayo Ward, has grown from bad to worse and the family is desperately looking for help from friends and government.
“He is not eating, not talking, not turning,” said his firstborn son Hillary Bonn. Doctors have done scans on the head, but they still don’t know what actual problem. Hilary sent an urgent appeal to Nandi County and National government to help them with medication and upkeep.
Bonn was born in Kamng’etwiny, Nandi in 1945 and went to local schools where he honed his athletics talent.
He was drafted in the 1968 Kenyan team for Olympic Games in Mexico City, where he teamed up with Charles Asati, Naftali Nyangau and Daniel Rudisha. They won silver medal, a sign that Kenya had talent in sprint. He did not make the team for subsequent Olympics, where the trio from Gusiiland – Ouko, Nyangau and Charles Asati held sway, alongside Julius Sang.
They won gold in Munich Olympics in 1972. That was the time Kenya was teaming with such great sprinters like Bill Kosgei and Thomas Saisi. Nyangau, Asati, Kosgei and Saisi broke a world 4x800m world record during European Tour in 1969.
Bonn joined Kenya Police, but he could not recall the stations he worked in, nor the ranks he held. By the time this writer caught up with him, the medical condition had affected his faculties. In fact, the interview was conducted with the help of his wife, Grace Jemutai, and athletics legend Kipchoge Keino.
He has four sons and four daughters. Life seems to have gone south for Bonn, who apparently did not invest well from the small income he had from Kenya Police and his athletics exploits. Athletes of his generation like Saisi, Kipchoge, Nyangau, Rudisha and a few others are not badly off even though income from athletics was not as generous as it is today.