EXERCISE is key for the maintenance of a healthy body and is therapeutic for all, but even more so for the physically challenged. The facilities for the physically challenged in Kenya to keep healthy through exercise are very limited.
The participation in sport by the physically challenged continues to highlight the dire situation that needs urgent address – sporting, health and infrastructurr needs for the convenience of physically disadvantaged.
The Kenya Paralympic Committee is mostly visible when preparing the physically challenged to enter international competition, including the Paralympics.
Meanwhile, a group of Paralympic sportsmen and women have made Kenyans proud for their ability to shrug off their training disadvantage with mind boggling mental toughness.
At the Paralympic Games in London 2012, it was a joyful moment as Kenya’s Abraham Tarbei, who won the Paralympic Games four years earlier in Beijing led compatriots Stanley Cheruiyot and Jonah Chesum to dominate the men’s 1,500m T46 final. Tarbei was a double gold winner in Beijing.
In London, Kenya entered a team of 19 athletes, including five runner guides competing in the six track events and picked up two gold medals in world record times in the 1,500m T11 through Samuel Muchai (gold) and Abraham Tarbei who defended his 1,500m T46 title from Beijing 2008.
Other prominent athletes at the 2012 championships in London included:
- Abraham Tarbei – (1,500m T46, 800m T46)
- Johan Chesum- (1,500m T46)
- Stanley Cheruiyot – (1,500m T46)
- Hannah Ng’endo – (sprints, women T12 — 100m for the visually impaired)
- Samuel Muchai – (men’s 1, 500m T11)
- (Triple Gold winner, Beijing, 2008) Henry Kirwa – (1,500m, 5,000m T12)
- David Korir – (1,500m, 5, 000 T12)
- Mary Nakhumicha – (throws – Javelin, Discuss and Shot put F57; wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.)
But, financial constrains have hampered the establishment of facilities required by disabled people, let alone run their sporting programmes.
At the close of 2015 the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) protested the last-minute failure to support the Kenya track and field team to the Paralympic World Championships in Doha, Qatar, and described it as a “grave mistake” and “shameful” decision.
The Kenya Paralympics team was forced to withdraw from the Doha games after the government turned down their request for tickets and accommodation funds. The Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts, was unable to find the Sh8 million the team required.
The Kenya Paralympic Committee were left harbouring fears that they would not prepare a strong team for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Kenyan team included world record holder, Samuel Muchai in the men’s T11. Missing Doha made Muchai miss a golden chance to qualify and prepare for Rio.
Most of Kenya’s sporting success in athletics is built on individual talent with minimal investment in equipment. However, the Kenya Paralympic team requires substantial investment to acquire machines for wheelchair racing, basketball, handball and cycling.
Kenyan sports organisations are struggling to provide equipment and facilities for the physically challenged, who can only take part in events on wheelchairs or require special equipment to enter competition.
Kenya last hosted, at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies, a championship that was won by Nigeria and South Africa for men and women’s tickets to represent Africa in tennis. Other entrants were Morocco, Egypt, Gambia, Zimbabwe and hosts Kenya, who finished fourth after pairs.
Kenya’s tournament director George Kiganjo was satisfied by the team performance. International Tennis Federation (ITF) East Africa development officer, Thierry Ntwali was full of praise for the Kenyan players, adding that ITF would line up more games to popularise wheelchair tennis in Kenya and across Africa.
“Wheelchair tennis is a very interesting sport and there is growth currently in the country. I urge any parent with a disabled child not to isolate them in houses, but register them with us so that they learn the sport. Tennis is the next sport for an African child,” advised Kiganjo.