By Omulo Okoth
Winners Momanyi and runners-up Ongori still waiting for their dues five months since the race was staged in Nairobi as Athletics Kenya raises red flag
Since July when the Sotokoto Half Marathon was held in Nairobi, the winners are yet to receive their prize money. I have this on authority of the winner and runner-up of the women’s category, Grace Momanyi and Philles Ongori.
I don’t know whether third-placed Pauline Njeri, and the rest of the top finishers have received their prizes. Neither do I know whether the men got their prizes. But my curiosity was raised when the top two women did not receive their prizes on race day as is normal practice.
Athletics Kenya (AK) raised the red flag a few years back on meet organisers who did not pay prizes as promised. John Ngugi, the winner of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games 5,000m, got himself into so much trouble last year when he organised a charity race, which was to sensitise the public on the danger of malaria.
I don’t know how he eventually weaved himself out of the prize money imbroglio. But the damage done to his reputation was huge.
Several races around the country are now sponsored by corporate companies and non-governmental organisations. Organisers hog so much publicity only to renege on the prize money issue. AK is handling a not too dissimilar case involving a race organised in Nyanza in which an official apparently took off with part of the money, which was meant for organsation.
The person who did not use that money for its intended purpose is now busy recruiting people as part of AK registration ahead of the poll. That is a story for another day.
My concern here is the high-profile Sotokoto Half-Marathon, started by marathon legend Douglas Wakiihuri three years ago amid a celebrity razzmatazz, which even included the country’s top political leadership.
The Japanese wanted to give back to Kenya what they had reaped in road running over the years which culminated in the east African nation’s first ever Olympic Games Marathon gold medal in Beijing in 2008, won by the late Samuel Wanjiru.
And they picked no less a celebrated person. Wakiihuri started the marathon fame for Kenya with 1987 World Championships in Rome and an Olympic silver medal the following year in Seoul. He won many other marathon majors. His name and that of Ibrahim Kipkemboi Hussein will go to the annals of history for Kenya’s marathon fame.
I have not been successful in reaching him this week. I hope to reach him soon to get an explanation on this apparent inadvertent failure to fulfil his part of the bargain.
For even after promising the winners they would get paid their prizes on December 4 at Jupiter Resort, Langata Shopping Centre, he did not show up and he could not be reached.
“Dear Sotokoto Event winners. We wish to advice you that prizes for 10km winners positions one to three for both men and women and 21km runners up positions four, five, and six to collect their prizes on Tuesday December 4 at Jupiter Resort, Langatta Shopping Centre,” he told the athletes through text message.
Winners for 21km positions one, two and three both men and women will receive their prizes on Tuesday next week at the same place. Thank you all for your patience,” he stated.
Well, these athletes are now getting impatient. They have not received their prizes. Neither can they reach Wakiihuri.
Could somebody kindly intervene? Athletes spend a lot in training and preparing for races. When they win, they deserve payment without much ado.
As we approach the end of the year, I expect organisers and managers to clean up their stable to ensure they start the year on a clean slate.
AK elections are around the corner and I don’t want some able officials to be barred because of breach of Article Six, which deals in integrity. Even agents who failed to remit prize money to their athletes and are now on the forefront of AK seats will have to face the integrity test when the time comes.
Those who were mentioned in not too rosy light in their places of work ought to make appointment with the Otiende Amolo-led Committee of Administration of Justice. And this should include all sports, not just AK alone. I hope somebody at the Ministry of Sports is compiling this list.
— The writer is The Sports Editor of The Standard ([email protected])
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Athletics Kenya race cross country