London 2012 games were exceptional for two Kenyan runners. David Rudisha won the Olympic gold in a world record time of 1:40.91. Samuel Muchai also clinched the Paralympic 1500m T11 title in a world record time.
Kenya won two gold medals at the 2012 Olympic games. Muchai’s gold was one of two won by the National Paralympics team.
It is a well documented fact that Rudisha will be in Rio to defend his title, but very few know whether Muchai is also planning a trip to the Brazilian capital to chase another Olympic gold in the 1500M T11, a categorisation for visually impaired athletes who run with guides.
The selection of the Olympics team was a national affair grabbing headlines and topping news for days.
In contrast the Kenya National Paralympic Committee was a hushed affair, the media struggled to squeeze in news of their qualification.
There were no politicians and sponsors rushing to associate with these set of athletes.
Never mind their difficult journey to qualification.
They missed their planned International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships in Doha after the government failed to fund their trip in October 2015 at the last minute and and had to wait until May to seek qualification for a lean squad in Morocco.
“We are late to report to camp until now. We have been training for a short time compared to the Olympics team. My wish is that we can be granted similiar training conditions because our oponents are already training hard.But either way I will do my very best to defend my title in a fast time,” said Muchai at his base in Eldoret, the most experienced member of the team alongside Henry Kirwa, the triple Paralympic champion from Beijing.
Kirwa won gold in the T13 1500, 5000 and 10000m.
He has been training with the coach Ruth Chumo at the Chepkoilel track in Eldoret.
The Kenyan Olympic team has been camping in Eldoret with the rest of the teams Boxing, Swimming, Archery and Judoka training at their preferred venues with the support of the National Olympics Committee, unlike the Paralympians who are solely funded by the erratic Government.
The Paralympians who are scheduled to travel to Rio for the games between September 5-18 have a team of 26 track and field team of athletes, a power lifter and a para rower. Their training is uncoordinated each athlete training at their most convenient location, some without coaches.
“We had wished to camp in Eldoret for a high altitude training but we have not been able to find any sponsors. It is hard to approach sponsors who are not even aware that there are Paralympic games and Kenya will have a team there. So as is we will just settle for Kasarani which the government has agreed to support for three weeks before we go to Rio,” said Agnes Flora Aluoch, the KNPC Chair, adding that they are lucky to get Safaricom to chip in Ksh.5 million towards their preparations.
Team lacks equipment
The Government has committed Ksh.110 million for part of their residential training and travel to Rio.
“We need your support too. We feel alone. We have been forgotten yet we too are going for our Olympics. The media has failed us. If you talk and write our story people will know then maybe it will be easier for us when we approach them for support. It has been tough really,” she added.
The Kenya Paralympian team have never been afforded the luxury of training with the right equipment.
Most of the time the Paralympians only get to use the equipment like racing and motorised wheelchairs, throwing chairs for the field athletes on the day of the competition.
Sports News Arena highlighted the training conditions of some of the members of the team.
Nelly Sile, a Javelin thrower who missed qualification for Rio, clearly failed by the lack of proper equipment. Sile uses sticks in training.
“It is not easy for the disabled athletes to access the training venues and even harder is that they lack the right training equipment which we must source for if we can get the support to get these,” Oluoch explained, truly disappointing for a team that has consistently won gold medals at the Paralympics. Kenya won three gold medals at Athens 2004 and five in Beijing.
Abraham Tarbei won the 1,500m T46 gold also in a world-record time of 3:50.15 in London.
She hopes that there can be more awareness on Paralympics and more focus on the athletes representing the country at various competitions.
Kenya Paralymics team for Rio: Samuel Mushai Kimani T11 1500m & 5000m, Wilson Bii T11 1500m ,5000m, Benard Koskei KipngetichT12 5000m & 1500m, Henry Kiprono Kirwa T12 1500m &5000m, Henry Nzungi Muendo T12 400m & 200m , Erick Kiptoo Sang T11 1500m & 5000m ,Mary Waithera Njoroge T11 1500m , Wesley Sang Kimeli T46 1500m & 400m, Stanley Misik Kipkoech T46 1500m, Nancy Chelangat Koech T11 1500m & 200m, Jonathan Sum Kipchumba T37 1500m , Hanah Ngendo Mwangi T12 200m & 400m, Gilbert Lagat Kiprugut T12 400m,Sylvia Olero Atieno F44 Discus throw, James Onyinkwa Mangerere F57 Javelin throw, Gabriel Magu Wanjiku Power Lifting (59kg), Itaken Timoi Kipelian AS Men’s Single Sculls,Para-rowing.
Competition partners/ Guide runners: James Kipkemboi Boit, Benard Kipkoech Korir , Benard Kipkurui Terer, Joseph Erang Rotina, Geoffrey Kiplagat Rotich, Tom Charito Sande