All Kenyans do is run. If we are not running towards gold medals in European cities, we are running away from our problems and failures. We are running towards the Kenyan Dream, a hastily concocted thing that involves mostly, quails and their little spotted eggs, and once in a while, a Lupita.
But these Kenyans and individuals of Kenyan origin are in a class of their own, going out of our comfort zones to find ways to do that.
#7 Daniel Adongo, American Football
It is no surprise that our ambassador in the American National Football League is a former rugby player, the mammoth of a man who answers to David Adongo, or, Liech (Elephant in Dholuo). Adongo is 1.98m tall and checks in at 115kg, the perfect hitting machine for any rugby or football team.
American football is rugby’s more senselessly violent cousin. People wear protective gear, the oval ball is too small, and people tackle each other recklessly.
The hardest part for the Indianapolis Colts coach who had the brilliant idea to find a beast of a rugby player to transform into an outside linebacker was to facilitate that transition. Adongo finally did, and in December 2013, he was picked for the active roster as a rookie outside linebacker. Some reports have it that he gets paid KES 35 million a year while?others think he is Nigerian.
There is an American Football Club in Kenya by the way, and they play in full armor. Where in Kenya can one even find a testicular guard? Wait, is that what it’s called?
#6 Julius Yego, the YouTube Athlete
Julius Yego is a man who knows how to throw javelins, and he learnt most of what he knows from YouTube videos. Whoever said the only thing we young men are doing online is chatting up ladies and surfing the blue side of the internet should meet Yego.
In 2006, Yego held the national junior title at 67 meters. He beat Paul Lagat’s 14-year national record of 78.20 by throwing 78.34 at the 2012 Olympic Games. He also won the javelin title at the 2011 All-Africa games, and was third in the 2010 African Championships. He made headlines during the Olympic Games for two reasons, being the smallest among the elite javelin throwers at the event, and for his unusual training.
Yego searched for instructional videos featuring Jan Zelenzy and Andreas Thorkildsen, both multiple Olympic and World Champions. He did not have a throwing coach until IAAF gave him a scholarship to train in Finland.
On how he knows he’s done it, Yego?says “It’s how the javelin flies. When you release it and it flies high, you know it is going far. You say to yourself, Please don’t let it come down. I can feel it in my hand that I have hit it right.”
If we didn’t know he was talking about javelins, this would sound crude, like what you are doing with the YouTube on the next tab right now. We see you, we all see you.
#5 Daniel Otunga, WWE
Like Barrack Obama, Daniel Otunga has a Kenyan dad and an American mum. Although his citizenship is not in question, let’s assume having a Kenyan surname makes him as Kenyan as can be, seeing as Luos are international citizens. Otunga is a two-time WWE Tag Team Champion, a lawyer, actor, and professional wrestler.
He signed up to the WWE in 2008 and?made his debut the next year as Dawson Alexander. He first wrestled under his real name in WEE NXT in 2010. He is the last original member of the Nexus and the New Nexus. It’s okay if you don’t know what any of these abbreviations mean, all you need to know is that he plays that game where men in underwear play pretend.
Wait, isn’t saying someone is a ‘WWE wrestler and an actor’ repetition?
#4 The Oduya Brothers, Ice Hockey
Like Otunga, the Oduya brothers trace their heritage to Luoland. Their father, George Oduya, was a journalist who went to Sweden for studies and married a Swedish wife. Their two sons, Fredrik and Johnny, became professional ice hockey players. Freddy never got to play in the NHL but he made his mark as a T-blades enforcer in the minor leagues. He was known as “Freddy Knuckles” or “The Swedish Nightmare” for his goonish habits on the ice. He got into so many fights that there is a whole page dedicated to them.
It is no surprise that he ended up retiring twice due to injuries, his final retirement being in 2000 due to a back injury. He died eleven years later in a motorcycle accident in Austria.
His younger brother, Johnny is more civilized. A left-handed athletic defenseman with the Chicago Blackhawks, Johnny sometimes gets off his soft and sharp play to win the puck battle. Fans pronounce Johnny’s surname as “Orr-duya,” a direct comparison to the incredible offensive defenseman Bobby Orr, proving once again that Dholuo is an international language.
#3 Philip Boit, Kenya’s First Winter Olympian
While Kenya tends to kick ass during the Summer Olympics in track events, we are conspicuously absent from the Winter Games because, well, no snow. Yet Africa’s Eddie the Beagle of snow sports is Kenyan.
In 1995 Nike had a ridiculously ambitious plan to turn an athlete into a skier. They figured that since both sports require moving your limbs really fast, how hard could it be?
The human guinea pigs were Philip Boit and Henry Bitok, although Kenya had a single slot in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Boit saw snow for the first time in 1996, two years before he participated in the Nagano Olympics. Learning how to ski was like being a toddler all over again, falling down time and again. The Nike salary must have helped heal the wounds.
At the Olympics, Boit got to the finishing line a whole 20 minutes behind the winner. “They were shouting ‘Kenya GO!, Philip GO!’ It was like I was winning a medal even though I was last.” He finished 89th and last in the 10km classic race to find the winner, Bjrn Dhlie, waiting for him at the finishing line. As if that Bromance was not enough, Boit named one of his sons Dhlie Boit, looping the 10km race head and tail winners in one little boy’s moniker.
Boit also participated in the 1999 Nordic Skiing World Championships in Ramsau, Austria, then Nike finally gave up on its ridiculous project. Our athlete turned skier had, however, been caught by the bug. In 2002 at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, he finished 64th, beating three competitors.
He retired but returned in 2006 at Turin where he beat 5 competitors (finished 92nd). Although he was clearly improving, or his competitors for the last position were aging, he didn’t qualify for 2010 Winter Olympics because one can only lose so much.
#2 Chris Froome, Cycling
How far would you go to represent your country?
Before Chris Froome picked up his British passport and won the Tour de France, he was Kenya’s only elite cyclist in the international leagues. Froome was born in Kenya, then moved to South Africa at 14. At the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Froome was a one-man Kenyan team doing it all for himself in the same way that he had made himself a Kenyan national champion’s jersey. “He looked after himself, came to the team managers’ meeting, turned up in his sandshoes and he performed really well.”
Later that year at 2006 Road World Championships Salzburg, Austria, Froome made headlines after he crashed into an official. To get to Salzburg, he had hacked into the Hotmail account of the Kenya cycling association to get his race entry.
At the Tour de France in 2008, Froome made history as the first and only Kenyan rider to participate in the 105 year-old race. After that he quit and moved to Team Sky, the elite British national cycling team, where he won the Tour de France. He still rides with the Kenyan flag atop his dossard.
#1 Paul Wekesa, Tennis
Born in 1967 to politician Noah Wekesa, Paul Wekesa would go on to win the doubles tournament at the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships and a bronze medal at the All-Africa Games in 1987. He later scooped three ATP Tour Doubles titles. He achieved one of his most impressive feats in 1989 when he reached the quarterfinals in doubles at the Australia Open. 1995 was by far his best year, however, as he featured at Wimbeldon, French Open and the US Open.
Sports enthusiasts probably remember him when he featured in the Davis Cup Team, leading Kenya to success in the Euro-African zone in 1992. Wekesa won his singles matches and then teamed up with Eno Polo to register a narrow win in the doubles over Romania. His victories triggered a tennis-mania in the country that would last for the next five years.
He finally retired in 1998 and was inducted in the hall of fame category at the Kenya Sports Personality of the Year Awards in 2007.
One story is good,
till Another is told.