THEY DARED TO DREAM: Kenya's Paralympics team head back home with heads held high

By ERICK OCHIENG': Tuesday, September 20th 2016 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Athletics
Athletes compete in the Men's 5000 m (T11) during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on September 8, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBA

Kenya has ended the 2016 Paralympics Games that started in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on September 7 with a total of six medals; three gold, one silver and two bronze.

As usual, the medals came from athletics, which is Kenya’s stronghold in international sports. The medals were won by Samuel Kimani Mushai (two gold), Henry Kiprono Kirwa (one gold and a bronze), Nancy Koech Chelagat (silver) and Wilson Bii (bronze).

The categories that gave the Kenyan athletes medals in Rio included men’s 5,000m T11 (Mushai’s gold and Bii’s bronze), men’s 1,500m T11 (Mushai’s gold), men’s 1,500m T13 (Kirwa’s bronze) men’s 5,000m T13 (Kirwa’s gold) and women’s 1,500m T11 (Chelagat’s silver).

From his flawless performance in Rio, Mushai thrust himself in the league of other local Paralympics greats such as Henry Wanyoike, Kirwa and Abraham Tarbei.

The six medals catapulted Kenya to 35th place on the log against 83 nations that were in competition.

China, who topped the medal table, went home with 107 gold, 81 silver and 51 bronze.

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Great Britain were second with 147 medals comprising 64 gold, 39 silver and 44 bronze followed in third place by Ukraine (41,37,39) who toppled powerhouse United States (40,44,31) on the last day for a top three finish.

Continentally, Kenya finished seventh overall behind Nigeria (8,2,2), Tunisia (7,6,6), South Africa (7,6,4), Algeria (4,5,7), Egypt (3,5,4) and Morocco (3,2,2).

Kenya could have performed better at the games had the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) not instructed the country to whittle down its 42 Rio-bound squad to a paltry nine.

“For example, whittling down the team denied Kenya entry in the marathon which obviously could have gone in favour of Kenya owing to the country’s rich history in the discipline,” said National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) Chairman David Sankok.

Kenyan officials in Rio, led by Sankok, also had to fight hard to protect the gold medal and bronze won by Mushai in 5,000m T11 after host Brazil appealed, saying  Kenyan athletes had broken some IPC rules.

Brazil had claimed the Kenyan athletes had arrived at the Olympics stadium for the event late, and that Mushai’s guide, James Boit, kept pushing him all through the race. They also said Boit did not lift his hands up after crossing the finish line.

The 2008 Beijing Paralympics remains the best ever for Kenya since the country’s first participation in the Paralympics Games in Heidelberg in 1972.

In Beijing, Kenya won five gold medals of which three came from Kirwa who smashed world records in men’s 1,500m T13, 5,000m T13 and 10,000m T12.