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Sports stars juggle their way to parliament after tough battle in elections

Dan Wanyama (left) of Kenya Parliament battles for the ball against Brian Alwaithe (right) of Uganda Parliament in the opening soccer match between hosts Kenya and Uganda during the 7th Edition of the East African Community Inter-Parliamentary Games at the Mbaraki Sports Club, December 05, 2016. Uganda won 1-0. [PHOTO BY GIDEON MAUNDU/STANDARD].

They displayed spectacular talent in sports, with others lining up in and winning some of the toughest track and road races while others scored memorable goals in football.
And after prosperous careers in sports, they lined up in the 2022 General Elections held on August 9.

A number of the sportsmen triumphed in the hotly contested political races as others fell by the wayside.

They rolled up their sleeves, ready to serve Kenyans as Governors, Members of Parliament and Members of County Assemblies (MCAs).
Unlike in sports where sportsmanship is central, sports talents found themselves in a complex political terrain where propaganda and mudslinging are part of the rulebook.

Those who cleared the political hurdles to emerge top are beginning a chapter of serving expectant constituents who are battling unemployment and high cost of living.
Others had lost their elective positions in the 2017 elections and luckily recaptured them in the just concluded polls, but some were rejected.

From reviving sports at the local level to creation of jobs through international connections, sportsmen and women who plunged into politics made big promises.

The losers are counting huge losses after using their hard-earned prize money and earnings to find their feet in hotly contested and charged political battles. They say running for political office in Kenya is an expensive affair.

Christopher Cheboiboch, a former Boston and New York City marathon runner-up was lucky. He launched a successful bid to recapture the Emsoo Ward (Elgeyo Marakwet) MCA seat after losing it to John Yator in 2017.

“I thank the voters for giving me another chance. It was tough and I should thank my competitors. This time, I will focus on talent development, health and infrastructure,” he said yesterday.  

Others who triumphed are Nyeri Town MP-elect Duncan Maina Mathenge, a retired volleyball player as well as legendary volleyballer Dan Wanyama who successfully defended his Webuye West MP seat.

Nyeri Town Mp-elect DuncaN Maina Mathenge at Nyeri National Polytechnic, August 11, 2022. [Mose Sammy, Standard] 

Wanyama is now serving his second term as MP.
Mathenge, who beat outgoing Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu by 29,303 votes after securing 41,111 against the latter’s 11,808 said he will work with his competitors in serving his constituency.

“My first task will be to find a solution to drug abuse which has resulted in insecurity in Nyeri Town,” he told the press in a live broadcast after he was declared winner.
Former Boston Marathon champion Wesley Korir, who served as Cherangany MP from 2013 to 2017 when he lost the position to Joshua Kutuny, made a return in the August election, but he was unlucky.

Korir who was running on a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) lost the election to Patrick Simiyu of the Democratic Action Party of Kenya DAP-K who garnered 26,748 votes.
The athlete came in second with 26,078 votes

“Cherangany voters supported me during the party primaries. On my side I supported a number of students through secondary schools. My opponent was the chief of staff for ten years but he never helped residents secure jobs at the county,” Korir said.

He said he had pledged to focus on the creation of jobs for Cherangany constituency youth through talent development.
Korir said he had plans to construct talent centres that would provide a wide range of talent training, such as sports and artists.

Webuye MP. Dan Wanyama at Parliament on Wednesday 30/01/19[Boniface Okendo,Standard]

He has been helping young talents secure academic scholarships in the US.
Former Boston and Berlin marathon winner Elijah Lagat wrote history during his prime in athletics before launching a successful race in politics, a move which saw him get elected as

Member of Parliament, representing Emgwen Constituency, and later, Chesumei in Nandi County.
But he lost in the race to become Nandi County Deputy Governor on a joint independent ticket with governor candidate Cleophas Lagat. The latter was the first governor of Nandi.

The pair was running for the county top and second most powerful positions as independent candidates.
Elijah and Cleophas had contested for UDA party tickets and each was eyeing the Nandi governor position, but were defeated by the incumbent – Stephen Sang during the April party primaries in April.

Deputy President William Ruto with Macdonald Mariga during a thanksgiving ceremony organsed by Jubilee`s McDonald Mariga to thank the residents for the votes they gave him during the just concluded Kibra by election. PHOTOS/COLLINS KWEYU

In May, they decided to run as a pair after questioning the fairness of the primaries.

“The party nominations were not free and fair and that is why I decided to run with Cleophas Lagat. Based on our agreement, he would be the governor and I would be his deputy because our manifestos were almost similar,” the retired athlete said.

Lagat said he had pledged to use his international influence to create jobs and academic scholarships across the globe.
He says the position would have offered him the platform to secure job opportunities such as driving and technical work.

Passion fruit farmer and former Elgeyo Marakwet MCA Christopher Cheboiboch at his farm in Kapchemutwa, Keiyo North sub-county. Mr Cheboiboch is also a retired athlete. [Stephen Rutto, Standard]

“Education bursaries in Nandi had remained at Sh60 million per year since the tenure of governor Cleophas Lagat, and getting the amount has been a herculean task. Our plan was to ensure that we increase the budget for bursaries from Sh60 million to at least Sh450 million so that each of our 30 wards gets Sh15 million,” Lagat said.

T46 Paralympic athlete Lameck Maiz, 29, who was focused on clinching the Kaptagat MCA post failed in its bid to bag UDA party ticket in April, but says he has not lost hope. The youthful athlete battled retired runner Leah Malot for the UDA ticket.
Maiz, who competes in 800m and 1500m, said he was ready to champion the interests of Paralympians had he secured a win in the elections. 

He says athletes living with disabilities have been neglected and he would have ensured that more races are organised for them to earn prizes. 
“The biggest challenge is that people still think that persons living with disability will be nominated by political parties. I had stepped up to compete with other leaders and get elected,” he said.

“Campaign resourcing is also a challenge. You compete with people who run well-oiled campaigns. I was using a motorcycle for my door-to-door campaigns. I have also been visiting churches, explaining my agenda to the people of Kaptagat,” Maiz said. 

Wesley Korir of Kenya smiles after crossing the finish line to win the men's division of the 2012 Boston Marathon in Boston, Monday, April 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

After 27 years in athletics, former All-Africa Games champion Leah Malot took a leap into politics, but was defeated in the nomination stage.
Nearly five years ago, Malot, who started her professional career in athletics with a historic 10,000m win at the 1987 All-Africa Games when she was only 15 years old, plunged into politics as a nominated Member of the County Assembly in Uasin Gishu. She won the African title barefoot.

Malot, 49, says she is in politics to prepare for a better society ahead of her retirement.
“I wanted to do something remarkable for society,” she said.
Former Thika United FC coach John Njogu was also elected as the new Gitothua Ward MCA.

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