I'd finally come to my element this weekend as our Kenyan athletes blazed the trail in Beijing finishing 15th position overall. The local papers have been all over each other trying to say this is our best performance ever. SEE: here and here & and finally this one .
That notwithstanding, I'll take a reality check on some of my thoughts;
1. Kenyan women won 2 of their first gold medals in the Olympics. That's a outstanding performance by all means. What was even more amazing was the modesty of the ladies winning the medals, with Jelimo -800m coming to her form only in the last 3 months while Jebet -1500m has been running in the shadows and not made such as major mark until now.
2. Kenya also won her first marathon title in the form of Samuel Wanjiru in the men's race. This gentleman was running in his 3rd major marathon. Superb performance !
3. Away from athletics, the 2 other disciplines which we almost came close were in the swimming by the Dunford brothers with Jason making it to the finals of the 100m butterfly race. Commendable performance too. Tae-kwon-do had 2 representatives 1 each for the men and women. Our lady fighter Milka Akinyi lost in the bronze medal contest to the Venezuelan Dalia Contreras. The gentleman didn't fare well though. Another new entrant was the sole representative in the rowing competition Mathew Lidaywa.
4.Some of the silver medals were gold medals in the making if we pushed a little harder....let me be plain with Ms. Ndereba in the women's marathon, E.Kipchoge in the 5000m to say but the least.
5. Coming to the worse parts, our 4 boxers did not get past the first rounds given that they were carrying the hopes of the nation. That's a dismal performance to say the least.
6. Kenyan officials were at it again. Starting with the qualifiers, the management made some mistakes which almost cost the country medals ...this is the case of one Ezekiel Kemboi who I said here should not have gone to Beijing. Some other errors included the sudden suspension of Muthoka who is said to have tested positive for drugs(unconfirmed reports), ticket bookings for athletes and officials, largesse that is usually the team management. And why oh why do we need such a huge number of officials ? Check this.
Overall the team showed we can achieve if we push ourselves and motivate our athletes well. I don't know but maybe the KShs. 1.75m from the Head of State may have had a hand in this. We must also thank corporate firms for promising more of these rewards to the participants.
a) Kenya badly needs a sports policy. I've said this once I'll say it again. We need a platform from which to launch ourselves to the next level. This is a good launching pad and we can't afford to lose this.
b) We need to retain our best talent in the country. Our consolation is that none of the defecting athletes won any medals on these Games but that's just a matter of time. We can't afford to let go of our countrymen-if we're to find better ways of rewarding and maintaining them then that be it.
c) Kenya needs to invest more in sports- with most of our national grounds regaining their shape, we need to add more of these especially at provincial levels where almost all sports grounds were grabbed or mismanaged. This need not be done by the Government alone but in partnership with private firms or every concessioning.
d) Focus should move quickly to the 2010 World Cup and Africa Athletics championships along with the All-Africa Games 2011 and Olympics in 2012. Well laid out plans of action and parameters should be set to achieve goals at each of the said events. We can't afford to lay on our wreaths of glory only for us to falter.
Is it me or is there like a 20-year cycle going here ? Every 20 years, Kenya sets history in the Olympics.
1968: First gold medal -Naftali Temu KE- 3000m steeplechase- 3 gold overall for Kenya.
1988: First gold medal- African boxing- Robert Wangila Napunyi KE- welterweight- 5 gold overall for Kenya.
2008: First gold medal- Kenyan women- Pamela Jelimo KE-800m- 5 gold overall !