By OMULO OKOTH
Kenyan skaters' recent tour of Korea has opened their eyes and whetted their appetite for bigger things.
The boys and girls who were in Pyeongchang have set their target for 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Their hosts are in agreement. They say if the youths train hard, and they noticed the youths’ burning ambition to excel, then Sochi is not a tall order. They were in Korea in February.
The young Kenyan skaters from Teddy Andaje, Isaac Osake, Mellisa Adhiambo and Kenneth Mungai in Korea.Eunbyul Lee, who was attached to the Kenyan team, singled out Mellisa Adhiambo Onyango and Teddy Andanje as most outstanding talented skaters.
Teddy was training with Eunbyul Lee (not related to the former), who won silver medal in the short track at last year’s Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada.
"Teddy, as ice speed skater, has strong starting point much more than other professional skaters. And I did not even have to teach him too much because Teddy already had enough skating skill to approve it," said Lee in an email to FeverPitch.
Mellisa was training with Sunyu Jin, three-time gold medallist in short track at the 2006 Games in Turin. She said Mellisa is a promising ice speed skater because she has enough skaing skills to convert to ice staking she she undertakes extra muscle-strength exercise.
Most Kenyans are inline skaters, a heavier and longer version of skating. Because of the heavier wheels, inline skaters tend to excel when they convert to ice skaters because they feel more comfortable and lighter, hence the ability to run faster.
Apart from Mellisa and Teddy, others in the team were Isaac Osale, Wesley Pidou and Makwato Eyenga. They were received by the Kenyan envoy in Korea, Ngovi Kitau and his wife. They also met the Korean President Myung-Bak Lee.
Dubbed Dream Programme, the Kenyans’ travel and stay in Korea was facilitated and funded by the Korean Skaters Federation.
"We trained with the Korean national team and the exposure we got was massive," said Kenneth Mungai, the team leader.
Andaje going through the paces with Korean Eunbyul Lee. [PHOTOS: COURTESY]
"The experience we had with the Korean national athletes was big opportunity for the Kenyan inline skaters’ in ice skating," said Mungai.
Mellisa and Teddy said they were impressed by the class and it is going to be a turning point in their skating career.
Their Korean hosts want them to train more in the Asian nation due to high cost of training in Kenya. Ice skating is only available at the Panari Hotel in Nairobi where skaters are charged Sh800 per hour, a figure well beyond the means of regular inline skaters.
"In addition to that, potential inline skaters need to practice with ice speed skate but these high costs are inhibiting potential skaters," said Lee.
"That’s why 2011 Dream Program was remarkable experience for upcoming Kenyan inline skaters who are willing to participate in next Winter Olympic in Russia if they get a chance to training about ice speed skate," she said.