By Ted Malanda
Every now and then, you hear Kenyans lament that our medal tally at the Olympics would increase substantively if we stopped focussing on races and gave field events some attention.
The assumption always is that because lads who live near Lake Victoria and the Indian Ocean swim like fishes, that the Maasai throw spears for fun, that the Kamba and Kalenjin are pretty gifted with arrows and the Luhyas in night running, golds in swimming, javelin, archery and long jump would be a shoo in.
The reality is markedly different. First, looking at the hefty people I saw hurling shot puts and javelins and swimming like eels at the Olympics, you can rest assured we will not be winning any medals in those events until we achieve Vision 2030.
The reasons are not difficult to fathom. One, you cannot grow up eating ugali and mrenda and dream of throwing a javelin. To get hefty, one requires protein, which is so scarce around here that we have elevated cattle rustling to a life and death business. As a matter of fact, I know of children whose hands were roasted by their angry mothers because they stole an egg — stole, because eating eggs is ‘bad manners’.
The second reason why we won’t be unleashing Olympic talent in swimming is because parents would rather children herd goats, hoe tired soils and ‘read hard’ than waste time swimming. I can confirm that every time I went swimming in River
Khalaba as a child, the first thing my mother did when the future Olympic swimming champ arrived home looking shy like a lizard was to give me a serious hiding.
Finally, our dreams for glory in field events are cooked because of our crazy penchant for improvisation at primary school level. We simply take jua kali too far. Take, for instance, hurdles. You aren’t going to make a world hurdler by sticking a few sticks on the track for lads to hurdle over. It is same with long jump. How do you train a champion by having him or her jump into murram? Meanwhile, a javelin is a stick cut from the bush while pole vault is done using a real pole weighing 100kg. Good grief!
As for gymnastics, the closest we get to train future champions is when they jump out of classroom windows and race for dear life because the Maths teacher is hell bent on murder. Oh yes, caning is still rampant in schools, Mutula.
So there you have it. Feed the children, allow them to play and give them the right equipment to train with or forget about winning field events.
Lonely amid company at the brew hole
A friend I shall not name jetted into Nairobi from Saudi Arabia last week. His throat was parched because within minutes of arrival, he summoned friends to a pub for an urgent meeting.
Being a friend in need, I hastened to the watering hole along Lang’ata Road, parked my car, which, like most Kenyan jalopies, is in a serious state of disrepair, and hastened to the doorway.
“Management reserves the right of admission,” a legend at the door announced. I thought that would be a great thing to have at Parliament buildings.