Sport legends in Baringo have lamented over lack of support by concerned authorities to promote and develop sporting activities especially athletics in the county.
Baringo North Youth Ground Sports Association chairperson Peter Kibowen argued that though the region has huge potential, upcoming talents are unable to compete in domestic and international championships due to lack of fully equipped modern facilities.
He noted that the current crop of athletes face financial constraints amongst other myriad of challenges that have hampered their smooth participation in major competitions.
Kibowen stated that his big dream was to see potential athletes get a chance and necessary support and inspiration in order to participate at national and international levels.
“I am interested in young people and even when I am gone there is someone who can take the mantle. I don’t want to die seeing the upcoming athletics talents having their dreams shattered due to lack of support from leadership and the thriving corruption in management of entire sporting activities in Kenya,” he reiterated.
Kibowen in an exclusive interview with KNA in Kabarnet town said that they often chip in despite their advancing ages and shoulder some of the expenses for the athletes as local leaders and sports officials continuously turn a blind eye on their plight.
Michael Cherono, a veteran athlete from Baringo North in a rejoinder acknowledged that the current predicament has taken back the county which produced the first Commonwealth champion, the late Bartonjo Rotich, who represented Kenya and won the first medal in 400m hurdles during 1954 games in Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Bartonjo, one of Kenya’s athletic fathers, is one of the first Kenyan athletes to win a medal at any intercontinental championship. The county has produced a fair share of seasoned athletes renowned for their exploits across the globe among them the President of National Olympic Committee (NOCK) Paul Tergat. He was the first Kenyan man to set the world marathon record in 2003.
Others are Joshua Chelanga, ex- Airforce officer, a Rotterdam marathon gold medalist and Mary Keitany, a world record holder in women’s marathon and Mathew Birir, 3000 steeplechase runner.
Cherono said he has tried to seek assistance towards funding towards development of programmes in the lucrative sector from both offices of the governor and constituency to a point of even serving them with letters but no feedback up to now.
“We are not castigating anybody, all that we need from our leaders is for them to be a bit sensitive and support the youth or else we remain in poverty forever,” said the former 400m hurdles champion.
Cherono who is also an athletics coach said last year he managed to convince county government to offer a bulldozer to assist in leveling of Kaptere playground near Kabartonjo town which could be the best training ground of both seasoned and upcoming talents from the area but the dream was short-lived as the equipment was withdrawn shortly before it begun work.
He said that his intention was to assist fellow athletes get a facility where they can nurture their God given talents and subsequently earn a decent living in turn have a ripple effect to the community.
“Us as legends, we are old people, we are not here because we want to run but we want our youth to compete like other counties besides earning a living out of their talents,” said Cherono.
He said those entrusted with management of sports both at the county and national levels should be people with passion and interests of the sports men and women at heart apart from possessing the requisite knowledge and experience in handling issues meant to improve living standards of the youth.
“One of the reasons why we are performing dismally in major athletics competitions is because most of the officials are people who were handpicked and they have no experience at all to spearhead sporting activities,” he said.
He called for the refurbishment of existing stadiums in Kabarnet and Eldama Ravine which have remained dilapidated for a long time as well as establishment of new ones at grassroots so that it can be easily accessible by the budding and seasoned athletes.
“Here in Baringo for example we do not have a gymnasium for our athletes and the nearest is Eldoret which is 100 kilometres away hence this is a big blow if we were ever to train young sprinters who requires a lot of weight lifting and speed work machines,” the retired athlete who once raced at Eugene stadium, Oregon State said.
Cherono stated that Kenya is endowed with talents in almost all the disciplines but it can only be realized with proper and sustained coordination and care.