World Athletics President Seb Coe and CEO Jon Ridgeon were Sunday cornered by a question from a British journalist seeking an explanation as to why Great Britain’s athletics team failed to strike gold at the just-concluded Olympic Games.
The combined Great Britain and Northern Ireland bagged just three silver and as many bronze medals despite their massive sports budget that would make Kenya’s Treasury allocation to sport appear pocket change.
Kenya finished third behind the United States of America and Italy on the track and field medals table, an enviable achievement especially given the long lay-off Kenya’s athletes endured during the coronavirus-enforced sports lockdown and budgetary challenges.
USA’s count was 26 medals (seven gold, 12 silver and seven bronze) while Italy had five medals, all of them gold and Kenya managed 10 (four gold, four silver and two bronze).
Both Coe and Ridgeon are British, and both former elite athletes, and were at pains to defend motherland over what was a beating by Kenya and other much smaller economies, in terms of medal count.
Coe cleverly ducked the question and offered mitigation for the British federation saying their athletes who settled for silver had lost the gold “marginally” and shouldn’t be judged too harshly.
“The difference between winning the 4x100m relay and not winning the 4x100m relay is about marginal as its got,” Coe, an Olympic champion and world record holder said.
“If I’m a glass half full person, which I tend to be, I would look at the outstanding performance of the girls in the 800 metres, I would look at the bronze medal last night in the men’s 1,500 and recognize that there’s a lot of very good young talent out there and it needs the right kind of resourcing, the right kind of coaching and the right kind of structures to bring it through.”
The British situation helped highlight the fact that, despite constant bashing after the “late” arrival of a gold medal and loss in the men’s steeplechase, Kenya actually performed way beyond expectations, especially under the difficult preparations effected by the coronavirus pandemic.
And Sunday’s closing ceremony that celebrated Kenya’s marathon gold medals by Peres Jepchirchir and Eliud Kipchoge transformed initial Team Kenya attacks into rounds of applause for a job well done in marketing the Kenyan brand to an admiring global audience.
“Watching the Olympics’ closing ceremony and hearing the Kenyan national anthem for the double marathon win with Humphrey Kayange being recognized as an IOC (athletes’ commission) member, you simply can’t make this stuff up! Kenya got some serious visibility during the Olympics!” tweeted Moses Kemibaro (@moseskemibaro).
Fafa Mukuru’s (@MurimiPius2) tweet was more direct: “JKIA should be named Eliud Kipchoge Airport.”
And James (@Cjamehk) rooted for double Olympic 1,500 metres champion Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon: “We should name a major maternity hospital with the name of Faith Kipyegon… to remind women that giving birth shouldn’t stop your dreams,” he argued.
“We should honour a major highway with the name Eliud Kipchoge to encourage everyone that no one is limited & determination delivers results.”
Team Kenya’s management, headed by Chef de Mission Waithaka Kioni and General Team Manager Barnaba Korir will certainly be celebrating what was a difficult assignment that bore reasonable fruit under the circumstances.