Fast and famous: Athletes' love for big fast cars comes with the territory

Kenyan athletes cruise to stunning victories on the track and the roads, and when they are not chasing glory on the global stage, they are racing in their favourite, top-of-the-range cars.

Athletes prefer to walk on the streets of local towns such as Eldoret, Iten and Kapsabet, after parking their machines.

They rarely flaunt the high-end cars they bought with their prize monies earned mainly in international races staged in Europe, America and Asia. But when they are not preparing for races they drive around in elegant road beasts.

Their possession of customised vehicles, observers say, is an indication that sports is a well-paying career.

Those who have travelled the world will tell you that if you meet anyone in London, Paris and Berlin as well as Boston and New York City and ask them about Kenya, they would tell you that the country is known for its athletics prowess. They also, reportedly, accord Kenyan athletes VIP treatment.

Apart from athletes, a number of footballers have earned celebrity status after their exploits globally and are driving stylish cars.

From Range Rovers to Cadillac Escalade Platinums, to Land Cruiser V8s and Volkswagen Crafters, top sports personalities ooze class on the roads.

For example, you will not fail to notice two-time 3,000m steeplechase Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi’s presence in his hometown – Eldoret. He likes parking his Range Rover along Oginga Odinga Street in the town’s Central Business District as he takes time to sample goodies in the North Rift’s commercial hub.

Ezekiel Kemboi.

Kemboi has four 3,000m steeplechase world titles to his name and athletics propelled him from a sleepy Matira village in Marakwet East to a world beater and global celebrity. Apart from a Range Rover, Kemboi also likes driving a Prado and a Land Cruiser.

Marathon world record holder and the only man on earth to run a 42km race under two hours, Eliud Kipchoge can’t be wished away. Kipchoge’s simplicity stands out, as he often unassumingly strolls in town during his free time.

The two-time (back-to-back) Olympic champion also loves to cruise in a powerful off-road automobile. It is perhaps because he comes from rural Kapsisiywa in Nandi.

The legendary athlete has won historic marathons – four times in London, three victories in Berlin and a win in Chicago and Tokyo, and cumulatively earned millions in prize money, but the legend rides in his Isuzu D-Max double cabin.

He had been awarded the Sh5.9 million Isuzu D-Max double cabin for breaking the World record at the 2018 edition of the Berlin Marathon where he cut the tape in a jaw-dropping 2:01:39. 

A year later, he also received another Sh4.1 million Isuzu D-Max Cabin after taking part in the INEOS under two-hour challenge in Vienna, and race (1:59:40). He affirmed his Greatest of All Time (GOAT) status in the INEOS 1:59 challenge.

Kipchoge gifted Izuzu D-Max.

A month later, he was treated to an exclusive experience by Mercedes-AMG Formula One team, and drove one of their Formula One cars. 

“Thank you for this unforgettable experience. Talk about going fast,” a visibly excited Kipchoge said after the drive, then.

On a number of occasions, Kipchoge has been gifted motor vehicles worth millions of shillings for his extraordinary performances, but he rarely displays his precious possessions.

Africa’s fastest 100m sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala drives a Toyota Harrier car estimated at Sh5 million, which he won after breaking the African record in 2021.

Vivian Cheruiyot, a former Olympic champion, who also triumphed four times at the World Championships, also drives a vehicle that almost matches her glory on the track.

For a long time, the Land Cruiser has become her road vehicle of choice.

On her part, two-time world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat is a lover of Toyota Harrier while 800m world record holder and two-time Olympic champion David Rudisha has on several occasions been spotted driving a Toyota Land Cruiser V8.

Just like their athletics counterparts, Kenyan international footballers are lovers of posh cars. Unlike most athletes, footballers don’t shy away from flaunting their machines.

Qatar Stars League player Michael Olunga, who had previously played for Al Duhail, has made a name in football, but can’t fail to use his rich earnings to acquire a snobbish car.

Olunga at times flaunts his high-priced cars on his social media pages. Olunga has been spotted with a Porsche Panamera whose value is said to be ranging from Sh20 to Sh22 million depending on the customisation of the car.

Michael Olunga.

Motor vehicle lovers have also spotted the striker driving the latest Toyota Land Cruiser 11 V8 Executive valued at between Sh11 million and Sh13 million. 

Victor Wanyama, who has previously played for English Premier League clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton, and Kenya Premier League clubs – AFC Leopards and Nairobi City Stars as well as the national team Harambee Stars – prides himself in owning a number of top-of-the-range cars that have wowed onlookers, especially on the streets of Nairobi.

In 2018, he caused a stir when he toured the country and drove around the city with a customised Volkswagen Crafter CR53 Maxi.

The high-end vehicle is estimated to cost an average of Sh25 million with features such as 3D TV screens, fridge, interior, and exterior CCTV cameras, rotating seats, play station, and coffeemaker. 

Other luxurious vehicles include Sh15 million Range Rover Sport, as well as a 2017 Bentley model that is estimated to cost around Sh20 million. 

His brother McDonald Mariga, a retired international footballer has a palpable affinity for swanky cars and has severally caused stirs with his classy drives.

Mariga has been driving a number of classy cars. But the footballer, who unsuccessfully contested the Kibra parliamentary seat in the 2022 elections, was known for his custom-made Hummer H2, which car enthusiasts estimated at Sh13 million before taxes.

The retired footballer also enjoys driving a Cadillac Escalade Platinum 2011, which is reportedly worth more than Sh10 million before tax. The car can cost about Sh17 million after taxes.

He is also spotted with high-end vehicles such as Lexus V8 and a BMW, among other expensive vehicles.  

A number of sports personalities have, however, crashed to death while others sustained career-threatening injuries while driving their favourite cars.

For example, 400m Nicholas Bett died after the car he was driving veered off the road and landed in a ditch near Lessos in Nandi in 2018. In 2010, former middle-distance athlete David Lelei died on the spot after his vehicle collided with a trailer on the Nairobi-Nakuru highway 11 years ago, while Jefferson Siekei was killed in a morning road accident in Nyamira County 13 years ago.

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