Posts land Kenyan-born US runners in hot Twitter soup

Athletes compete in the men's senior 10km race during the World Cross-County Championships in Kampala ...
Athletes compete in the men's senior 10km race during the World Cross-County Championships in Kampala on March 26, 2017. PHOTO/ISAAC KASAMANI / AFP

Kenyan-born American athletes- Olympics silver medallist Paul Chelimo and Samuel Kiprono Chelanga- faced the wrath of local social media users after posting disparaging tweets aimed at the country and continent of their birth on the micro-blogging site.

Chelimo and Chelanga who flopped at Sunday’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kampala despite being tipped to medal were on the receiving end of vitriol from Kenyans on Twitter (#KOT) who frayed them for their ignorant posts.

Chelimo who gained American citizenship by enlisting in the United States Army as a water treatment specialist took issue with a Kenya Airways flight attendant on Friday en route to Kampala for the World Cross where he ran the anchor leg in their 4X2000m Mixed Relay team.

“Its only in @KenyaAirways that the flight attendant has guts 2 ask u if you have ever flown before…ma’am its none of your business#toolocal,” the Rio silver winner tweeted on his @Paulchelimo handle.

The reaction to the unashamed post was furious as the runner who clocked a brisk 4:56 in the last 2K leg to bring the Americans home in sixth in 24:08, 1:46 behind the winners Kenya was torn to shreds.

“@PaulChelimo @KenyaAirways Eish..mkifika Trump land mnasumbua #frequentfliers (When you settle in Trump land, you become a bother),” Grace Mwelu tweeted.

Visibly irked by Chelimo’s post, Nation Media Group Editorial Director, Sports and seasoned journalist editor Elias Makori wrote, ““@Paulchelimo @KenyaAirways Why expose your arrogance? The village in you hasn’t left even with a Trump passport! Cabin crew was in Order !”

Eliud Wangondu was more diplomatic in his response, saying, “@Paulchelimo @KenyaAirwayoesnt hurt to say yes or no.I said yes a few weeks ago. Doesn’t make me less of a passenger.”

Tony Kinyash queried, “@Paulchelimo kuna mtu alikulazimisha kutumia KQ (Did anyone force you to use KQ)?”


The 27 year-old went to the USA in 2010 to attend college and has a degree in public health from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro.

Chelimo’s fellow countryman, 32-year-old Chelanga a younger brother to 2007 Rotterdam winner Joshua, was also in the line of fire on Twitter-sphere when he posted on Tuesday after the Kampala World Cross where he finished 11th to diminish the ability of the continent of his birth to host major championships.

“I wouldn’t recommend racing in Africa. Super thankful for 11th place overall,” Chelanga who turned to the US after failing to cut the grade in local competition wrote on his official @SamChelanga account.

Unlike Chelimo’s post, the gloves were off on Chelanga’s timeline as it briskly evolved into a wallpaper of quips faulting his “skewed” view of the continent despite his Kenyan roots.

@ReachSports tweeted, “The Kenyan born @SamChelanga would not recommend racing in ‘Africa’.This is the dangerous thinking we want to change. “

Aggrey Wabulwenyi‏ added,” @SamChelanga Oops! So you’ve also taken cue of referring 1 African country as Africa watched the race & of course #Africa4Life.”

@Rotvic2000 said, “@SamChelanga @NikeRunning  I didn’t expect to hear that from you, you were born and raised there not all days are Monday let’s just say that.”

Chelanga tried to do damage control, trying to clarify his post with some responses to some of his critics.

“Very disappointing. My comment was a compliment for how tough the conditions were in Africa & respect for the great talent.

“For the record: I loved the race, Uganda,& the whole experience in #iaafkampala2017 . I wish I didn’t have to defend my last tweet. So sad,” he later posted.

Another Kenyan born American great, Bernard Lagat, 43, the Osaka 2007 double world champion delivered a stinging riposte to his countryman.

“@SamChelanga While the IAAF tries its best to bring sports to Africa, pple like u keep dragging the continent down the mud. You’re lost.”

Perhaps, Chelanga’s initial post was a gross misunderstanding and he was clearly appreciating the level of talent in the continent and although some of his fans and followers supported his explanation, he erroneously forgot how sensitive some Twitter users can be.

Whatever one posts online can be subject to varied interpretations. The unwritten rule of thumb in Twitter is simple, Think, reflect, rewrite before you Tweet!”

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Story By Bernard Ndong
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