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Athletes are our biggest public relations asset

Kenya's Mary Keitany wins the women's elite race at the London marathon on April 23, 2017 in London.  PHOTO | ADRIAN DENNIS | AFP

At a time jittery nations have indicated they would not travel to Nairobi for July’s IAAF World Under-18 Championships over alleged “insecurity”, our athletes continue to prove why we are the best athletics nation on the planet with a sweep of all World Marathon Majors Series races of 2017.

Wilson Kipsang and Sarah Chepchirchir set the ball rolling at the Tokyo Marathon in February when they won the men’s and women’s titles, with former world marathon record holder Kipsang running a new course record two hours, three minutes and 58 seconds in the Japanese capital.

Last week, twice world champion Edna Kiplagat and Geoffrey Kirui completed another double at the Boston Marathon, with Mary Keitany and Daniel Wanjiru also winning the women’s and men’s titles at last Sunday’s London Marathon, Keitany striking in an all-women’s world record time of 2:17:01 (Briton Paula Radcliffe’s male-paced 2:15:25 is categorised differently).


These victories have played a huge public relations role for Kenya at a time the country’s reputation was somewhat jolted by jittery USA, Great Britain, Switzerland, Canada and Italy who rushed to announce they would not send teams for the July 12-16 under-18 championships in Nairobi.

These wins also help market Kenya as an attractive destination with sports tourism standing to be the biggest beneficiary.

“We are proud of their (athletes’) key role in enhancing the country’s image through their presence and excellent performance in international competition,” a gleeful Betty Radier, Kenya Tourism Board’s chief executive, prided after the London Marathon sweep.


“The tourism brand thrives on a strong country brand and we are glad that our athletes have been consistent ambassadors of Kenya. Sports Tourism is a niche that KTB is now leveraging on deliberately through support for the various sports and also sports initiatives such at the Sports Personality of the Year Awards.”

However, it should not be lost on the politicians and political parties that are currently running their primaries that polls chaos could negate the hard-earned positive image our gallant athletes have gifted the country.

These athletes also deserve recognition, and that’s why it’s annoying, to put it mildly, that despite all the glory they have brought our nation, some international performers are yet to be paid their cash awards for medals won way back at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and 2011 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Daegu.

The government really needs to put their money where their mouth is, reward these athletes and stop spinning empty rhetoric.

These sportsmen and women continue to be more patriotic than the majority of politicians who will stop at nothing to pilfer national resources, rig elections in their favour and ascend to office with little to offer in terms of nation building or enriching Brand Kenya they way our athletes do.

Meanwhile, hats off to corporates and individuals who continue to support athletes, and here I single out Bank of Africa whose “viewerthon” sessions with athletes and fans on the sidelines of the World Marathon Majors Series events in Eldoret, Kapsabet and Iten continue to motivate these athletes.

Congrats Keitany and Wanjiru on the latest victories. You deserve huge State recognition!




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