Lack of discipline the scourge of Gusii region athletes
Former athletes from Gusii region have cited lack of discipline among the current generation of runners from the region as the reason behind the decline of the sport in the once vibrant talent catchment area.
Sprinter Mike Mokamba (men 200m) and 2013 World Indoor Champion, Helen Onsando Obiri (women 5000m) are the only athletes from the South Nyanza region in Kenya’s team for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Speaking to Citizen Digital, 1972 Munich Olympics sprint champion; Charles Asati, believes Gusii athletes can do better if they dedicate their time to training.
Asati, who was born in Nyamira County in 1946, was in the legendary Kenyan 4x400m relay quartet that won the silver medal at the 1968 Games in Mexico before taking the honours four years later.
Incredibly, three of the athletes in the celebrated Munich Olympics team; Asati, Robert Ouko and Hezekiah Munyoro Nyamau had roots in the Gusii region with only Julius Sang from the Rift Valley.
“Sometimes it becomes so challenging to contain some characters in the current generation as far as the sport is concerned. We train them others join different forces but unfortunately some believe that we plan conning them so they end up losing our trust,” the 1968 Olympics 200m quarterfinalist told.
Asati retired in 1976 before he started working for the Kenya Defence Forces team as head coach and treasurer and later, he retired home to Nyamira County where he is farming.
“Gusii has got very talented athletes and I really wish if a proper structures are put in place where by recruitment is done from grass root, I know we have talent even among the uneducated and they can get trained.
“The responsibility can be given to the chiefs who can identify local talent. Unfortunately, we are not recognized nationally or at the County level. The first Olympics gold medal came from Gusii by Naftali Temu in the 1968 Olympics on Mexico,” the retired sprinter lamented.
He called on veterans like himself to be given a greater role in moulding the next generation of talent from the region that has stagnated in the sport.
His teammate in Munich 1972, Nyamau who hails from Kisii County, echoed his sentiments.
“I started running in 1965 and I participated in East African Championships and later rose to international competitions. We made our country proud and when the Government said that it will give us a special recognition during Mashujaa Day we knew that the new dawn has come but all is in vain.
“When we go to Nairobi on such occasions, we receive only Ksh5000 that is pittance compared to what other countries do for their retired greats. Even the County Government does not recognise us,” the 400m quarterfinalist in Munich decried.
Other famous runners from the region include 1991 men 5000m world champion, Yobes Ondieki, Atlanta 96 men 800m bronze medallist, Fred Onyancha as well as former world junior champion, Wilfred Kirochi.
Athens 2004 women 5000m silver winner, Isabella Ochichi, Delhi 2010 Commonwealth 10000m champion, Grace Momanyi and Algiers 2007 gold winner, Ruth Bosibori are among the notable female runners from Gusii.
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