AK to honour Kenya’s pioneer athletes at 70th anniversary

Kenya’s founding athletes will be the focal point when Athletics Kenya (AK) commemorates 70 years of its existence  on Tuesday.

The event will also culminate in the unveiling of a new name and logo for the second time since the inception of the federation in 1950.

The federation was established in 1950 initially as the Kenya Amateur Athletics Association (KAAA) before it rebranded to the current name in 2002.

With Kenya being a powerhouse in athletics, not only in the region but across the globe, the federation has equally a rich history that stems from the founding athletes to the current crop of runners.

“We are blessed as a country to have so many athletes who have lifted our flag high over the years. However, since we have to invite only a few of them due to social distancing occasioned by Covid-19, we have decided to go for the founding athletes who are the embodiment of our history,” said national team coach Julius Kirwa who is a member of the Local Organising Committee of the event.

Kirwa disclosed that the committee has picked some 100 athletes who have been invited for the event, most of whom are the pioneers of the sport in the country, between 1950s and 1979, with the representatives of those who are now deceased also invited.

Among the athletes to be recognised are those who shone at the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games as well as the All Africa Games.

Amongst those to be honoured include Kenya’s first man to win an Olympic gold medal Wilson Kiprugut Chumo –  winner of Kenya’s first Olympic gold medal in 10,000m. Also in the line-up is the late Naftali Temu as well as legendary athlete Kipchoge Keino, who bagged multiple gold medals at the Olympics and Amos Biwott- the first Kenyan to win a gold medal in 3,000m steeplechase at the Olympics.

Also selected are the 1958 Commonwealth Games bronze medalists Arere Onentia (6 miles) and Bartonjo Rotich (440 yards). They will be joined by Kenya’s first Commonwealth Games gold medallist Seraphino Antao.

Others are: the Nyantika Maiyoro, Ben Jipcho, Daniel Rudisha, Naftali Bon as well as sprinters Charles Asati, Hezekiah Nyamao and the late Robert Ouko.

Elizabeth Chesire, Sabina Chebichii, Tecla Sang, Diana Monks, Mary Wagaki and Ruth Waithera are among the pioneer women set to be recognized.

Five-time World Cross-Country champions John Ngugi and Paul Tergat and the reigning world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge are also in the list.

Similarly, upcoming athletes led by World Under-20 5000m champion and national 400m record holder Mary Moraa will be in attendance.

“We saw the importance of inviting some of the junior athletes since meeting with the legends will go a long way in inspiring them.  Especially as we are fighting the doping menace in the country, we want our young athletes to understand that you can compete and win clean like these wazee’s,” said Kirwa.

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