Kenya was yesterday basking in international glory as its marathon icon Eliud Kipchoge raised its flag high up, literally, upon conquering the INEOS 1:59 Challenge.
The moment the marathon hero received the Kenyan flag from Deputy President William Ruto, who was among the party that welcomed the triumphant Kipchoge at the finish line, flew it up, before wrapping his back with those national colours as he received congratulatory hugs and acclamation; it was a case of a single man branding his country and placing it high on the global map.
This was possibly the greatest ambassador that Kenya has ever had, beating the expensive campaigns often mounted by government agencies to sell the country’s diversity, especially to raise tourist numbers.
The Kenyan flag is not new, with the country’s sons and daughters frequently conquering races in international events such as the Olympics and World Athletics Championship, which have often positively branded the nation.
However, yesterday’s appeared to be one extraordinary moment. It was a time when the entire world was watching. With doubts expressed in the past about the possibility of running 42km in less than two hours, the world was certainly watching as the paced Kipchoge took up the challenge, dismantling his past world record and with the fete placing the status of the country high up.
For a country whose international image is often punctured by other shortcomings, including the volatile nature of its politics, and its people divided politically mainly through ethnic divisions, Kipchoge’s conquest was a great branding.
The leaders who congratulated Kipchoge acknowledged the pride that he had brought to Kenya, and by extension Africa. “You have done it, you’ve made history and made Kenya proud while at it,” said President Kenyatta in part of his congratulatory post appreciating Kipchoge for his achievement.