Kenyan kids have a ball

African Independent - - SPORT -

NAIROBI: The IAAF and Tsukuba In­ter­na­tional Academy for Sport (TIAS) joined forces with Keny­atta Uni­ver­sity, the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foun­da­tion and the United Na­tions Of­fice in Nairobi to stage a packed day of ac­tiv­i­ties for some 400 chil­dren on the play­ing fields at Keny­atta Uni­ver­sity last week.

The chil­dren came from nine pri­mary schools in Nairobi and fur­ther afield. They in­cluded schools from the Nairobi slums of Mathare, Koro­go­cho and Kib­era (rep­re­sented by Kib­era Street Kids, run by 1987 world marathon cham­pion Dou­glas Waki­ihuri), as well as Keny­atta Uni­ver­sity Pri­mary School and Ngong.

Some of the schools came from fur­ther away, in­clud­ing the Machakos School for the Deaf and Tech­ni­cal In­sti­tute for the Blind, and two schools from the Maa­sai Mara.

But de­spite the dif­fer­ences in their back­grounds, once the chil­dren were warmed up and ready to go, they were all part of the same event, shar­ing a com­mon goal.

“An event like this is such a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence for the chil­dren,” said Prof Vin­cent Ony­w­era of Keny­atta Uni­ver­sity.

“It’s not just the sport that they’ll ben­e­fit from. Food is im­por­tant; some of these kids don’t see food, so the fact that they’ve come here and eaten some­thing and they’re hav­ing fun, it will be a huge ben­e­fit to them.”

The sports pro­gramme in­cluded var­i­ous Kids Athletics ac­tiv­i­ties cov­er­ing the core el­e­ments of athletics – run­ning, jump­ing and throw­ing – and even wheel­chair par­tic­i­pants from Machakos en­joyed test­ing their skills on the “For­mula 1” ob­sta­cle course.

Teams then took part in the Nanairo Eki­den, an adap­ta­tion of the tra­di­tional Ja­panese dis­tance re­lay for which the in­ten­tion is to pass the spirit of Olympic and Par­a­lympic le­gacy to the next gen­er­a­tion.

“Chil­dren in our area have tal­ent but do not have a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties,” said Moses Ole Ki­palias.

“Events like this will en­cour­age them, and the skills we teach­ers have learned will help us de­velop their tal­ent.”

For­mer marathon world record holder Tegla Loroupe, who also had to over­come dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances and cul­tural bar­ri­ers to ex­cel at her sport, was a keen spec­ta­tor. So too were some of the ath­letes who had been part of the ath­lete refugee teams at the Rio 2016 Olympics and the re­cent World Un­der-18 Cham­pi­onships in Nairobi.

“Athletics is one of the in­cred­i­ble sports that al­low you to bridge the gap be­tween the elites and the masses,” said IAAF CEO Olivier Gers. – ANA

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