|Former 3000 metres steeplechase junior champion Raymond Yator with his acolades. Alcohol abuse ended his career prematurely. [PHOTOS: FRED KIBOR/STANDARD]|
By FRED KIBOR
ITEN, KENYA: The name Raymond Yator may not ring a bell in the minds of many people but in the world of athletics, he was one of the most promising steeplechasers in the country.
He is remembered in athletic circles as the best steeplechaser of all time, being the only steeplechaser with the best barrier clearing techniques. Raymond dazzled fans with his long leaps that he would barely step on the water pool.
He broke the World junior record, setting a brilliant 8:03.74 at the Herculis Golden League Meeting in Monte Carlo, Monaco, on 18 August 2000.
That must have been a hereditary talent as his younger brother Albert Yator, stormed onto the world stage and won silver at the World Junior Athletics Championships in Moncton, Canada, in 2010. Unfortunately, Albert succumbed to illness in 2011.
During Raymond’s heyday, a commentator during an International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) juniors meet in in 2004 said: “The leader of the junior season in the steeple chase is obviously a Kenyan”. This was because of the good performance the athlete had maintained during the season.
Raymond’s superlative shows in track rocked the world and Olympic champion Rueben Kosgei, John Kosgei, former World record holders Bernard Barmasai and Wilson Boit Kipketer were his arch-rivals.
But nine years after the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm in 2004, Raymond, 33, has never participated in any competitive race because of alcohol abuse.
It all started his younger brother Robert says, after a successful race in 2004 when the elder Yator hosted a fete at his Uswo home in Elgeyo/Marakwet to celebrate his victory.
“Apparently he was a teetotaller and during the celebrations alcohol of all sorts was in plenty and my brother took it,” he said, revealing that he had won $10, 000 (Sh868,800). He said that this is where the backtracking began because Raymond started missing training sessions.
“Steadily he started abandoning training and his peers in the village were at his door every morning to take him to the nearest busaa (local brew) den because of his generosity in purchasing drinks,” he said.
Raymond was fooled into believing that he would make a comeback and win huge cash once he ran low on cash. But alcohol was slowly taking a toll on him and he completely abandoned training.
Raymond, an alumnus of St Peters Marakwet Boys High School, known for producing the best steeplechasers in the world such as Moses Kiptanui and Boniface Chemase, bought a five-acre farm, two tractors, and several vehicles among other assets from his proceeds.
Robert blames peer pressure for his brother’s predicament in athletics, saying Raymond got so desperate that he sold the same assets to raise money to buy alcohol.
“When the money started diminishing, he embarked on selling some of the vehicles and other property he had acquired while active in running,” he said.
But Raymond insists he is still in good shape and when The Standard visited him in Uswo his dexterity in athletics remains alive as he demonstrated some warm up exercises.
“I have never achieved what I wanted for this country,” he opens up, adding that his passion is still alive.
“Alcohol has made me abandon my career but my body is rearing to go. My appeal is just to any sponsor to provide me with training and facilities and I will never disappoint,” he affirms.
He regrets the wasted years, saying alcohol consumption will be history if he gets another chance to run for the country.
“I want to specialise in half marathon and tame the likes of Mo Farah and Ethiopians who want to steal our pride as a long distance race powerhouse in the world,” he said.
Boit, his former track compatriot who is now the Kabiemit ward representative and Wilson Kipketer both say Raymond was a force to reckon with back in the day and relish his possible to return to track.