Tokyo Paralympics: outing to forget as Kenya limps out with just one medal
As curtains came down on the 2020 Paralympics Games on Sunday, the edition will go down as the worst outing for Kenya at the quadrennial event.
Making her 12th appearance at the Paralympics Games, Kenya bagged only a bronze medal courtesy of Nancy Chelangat in the women’s 1,500 T11 category.
It has been close to five decades since Kenya made her maiden appearance at the Games with John Britton opening Kenya’s medal account with the first gold medal during the 1972 Games held in Munich, Germany.
Since then Kenya has only failed to capture a gold medal during the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea however Kenya managed to amass five medals; four silver and a bronze.
The 2008 Games remains the most successful outing for Team Kenya after bagging nine medals; five gold, three silver and a bronze.
Five years ago in Rio, Brazil, Kenya sent a contingent of 19 sportsmen and women managing a medal haul of three gold, one silver and two bronze.
At the Tokyo Games, Kenya had a contingent of nine sportsmen and women consisting of seven track and field athletes- Eric Sang, Wilson Bii, Mary Waithera and Nancy Chelangat in the men’s and women’s T11 respectively, Nelly Munialo (1500m T13) and Felix Kipruto (1500m T46).
Hellen Wawira and Asiya Mohammed made forays in power lifting and rowing respectively.
As the dust now settles after the Games, what just might have gone wrong for Kenya after placing 78th globally and eighth in Africa?
“I understand that many Kenyans are concerned with our performance. We were lucky to get that bronze from Nancy Chelangat and I want to assure Kenyans that we did everything right even if you see from the performances they had massive improvements in their disciplines. In my observation I think the level of competition has gone a notch higher,” observed the Kenya National Paralympics Secretary General Elijah Aliero.
With Kenya having predominantly relied on athletics to bag medals at the Paralympics, Aliero believes it is time to diversify.
At Tokyo Games, Kenya competed in just three disciplines of the 22 sports lined up in the Summer Games.
“It is true we have got so many disciplines and Kenya we have those athletes however it is very expensive to acquire equipment. For instance the wheelchair races, one wheelchair costs up to Ksh 300,000 which makes it a tall order for KNPC to acquire them,” said Aliero.
For Chelangat, she believes the athletes needed more time on training prior to the Games.
“It is my plea to our committee and government to ensure they place us in camps in time ahead of major events so that we can have more time to prepare adequately,” said Chelangat after clinching the bronze.
With barely three years remaining until the next edition of Paralympics, Kenya can surely not afford to bury her head in the sand as Paris 2024 lies in wait.
“We have to move quickly and think of our next plan and one of our major tasks is to restructure our team. I think we now have to go for new talent and build a new team since age has also caught up with most of our athletes who have been here for long,” said Aliero.