Kenya’s poor show at Olympic games

Kenyans are awakening to the painful reality that our country’s performance at the Beijing Olympics is far below previous trends.

By today, Kenya only had a few medals, all from the longer races. Instead of scoring victories, Kenya’s delegation is plagued by infighting because of bad decisions. The professional conduct of Kenyan Olympic officials is so blatantly incompetent that it borders on sabotage of our sporting aspirations.

The irony is that Zimbabwe, with all its problems, is fairing much better than Kenya.

In a typical example of the woes afflicting the Kenyan team, last minute changes to the women’s 10,000 metres race resulted in a fiasco. Grace Momanyi was replaced by Peninah Arusei, who went on to grab 18th position in the race. Linet Masai, who was defeated by Momanyi during national trials, was allowed into the race and came out 4th place.

Masai claims that she didn’t know that white people could run so fast. She could have won a bronze medal but was overtaken at the last minute by Shalane Flanagan, an American. Arusei attributed her failure to, “a stitch which caused a sharp pain in my stomach.” With excuses like these, Kenyan sports has a very bleak future indeed.

The decision to replace Momanyi caused an uproar within the Kenyan contingent as officials engaged in damage control. Momanyi was so heartbroken that she cried in public and demanded the next flight back to Kenya. Momanyi could not understand how people she had defeated at the trials could be allowed to represent the country at her expense.

Problems for Kenya’s contingent were evident long before this. Infact, as the Olympic flame was lit at Beijing, dozens of Kenyan athletes were stranded in Nairobi for lack of tickets. Meanwhile, officials of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) were in Beijing a full week before the games. Even the team’s physiotherapist almost missed a ticket!

Still on last weekend’s drama, the Standard newspaper reports that not all of Kenya’s athletes are staying at the Olympic village. They had to get lodgings in other parts of Beijing with little access to training facilities. The affected athletes have complained of being sidelined.

By now, you must be thinking that our people couldn’t possibly do any worse. Brace yourself.

The International Olympic Committee reprimanded NOCK officials for mistreating the media.  According to the Daily Nation, the granting of day passes to Kenyan journalists was, “as hard to come by as Olympic medals for the Maldives.” Following criticism by the world body, Kenya’s chief of mission, Mr David Okeyo, apologized to the press and promised to facilitate access to the Kenyan team by the media.

In the months leading to the Olympics, there were disagreements over training venues and the use of substitutes. Kenyan athletes based overseas were reluctant to train at home. Maybe it is the conduct of NOCK and Athletics Kenya that discouraged them.

Kenya’s Olympic aspirations join the long list of sporting activities that have been ruined by maladministration, greed and political interference. Kenyan soccer is a basket case. Cricket is mired in controversies driven by racial differences. Volleyball suffered the same fate afflicting athletics, as replacements were made abruptly and with no recourse by aggrieved players. Hockey, handball and rallying are in a shambles. However, rugby seems to be doing quite well with impressive scores in recent months.

Kenya still has some hopes in Jason Dunford, who set a new world record in swimming, albeit for seven minutes. The fact that he is a white Kenyan attracted lots of attention from the international press.

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