Don’t let aquatic sports wave leave the Kenyan shore

Self-taught cliff divers bespeak a talent begging to be exploited

In Summary

• Even with scarce resources, we have produced many competitive swimmers

Swimmers in action during a past championship in Eldoret
Swimmers in action during a past championship in Eldoret
Image: FILE

The World Aquatics Competition 2024 is taking place in Doha, and as I watched it, I wondered: Why do we set up clubs and shopping malls every now and then, but not sporting facilities?

Doesn’t anyone care to construct a proper aquatic stadium, where water sports can be properly explored? If I’m not wrong, the Kasarani Aquatic Stadium is the only institution in the whole country with befitting facilities for training and competitions.

Nonetheless, even with these scarce resources, we have produced many Kenyans who are proper swimmers, including big names, such as Emily Muteti and Jason Dunford, who have represented our country at international levels, such as the Olympics.

My favourite segment in the aquatic competitions is diving. Here, we have springboard and platform diving, as well as synchronised diving. It is quite obvious that we have self-taught divers who can partake in cliff diving. 

If you walk around places like Ngare Ndare, the gorges along River Kerio and the coastal region, then you are sure to come across them. So, if we have such natural talent, why not give our country a shot at being represented in more aquatic sports? We saw our very own, Julius Yego, representing us in the Javelin Throw, where he won several medals and currently holds the African record at a personal best of 92.72m. With no training or support from anyone, he managed such a feat. Now, imagine what he could achieve if he had that backing. Imagine how much more talent we could unearth if we got serious about this.

We are also privileged to have a coastline where we can take part in open-body water sports, such as kayaking, canoe sprinting, marathon swimming and even triathlons. All these are possible because the facilities and resources are available. When you go to Mombasa, you’ll notice that there are endless opportunities to go kayaking. As for Nairobi, we have the Maji Magic Aqua Park at the Waterfront Mall in Karen, where different water sports can be enjoyed, such as paddle boarding and blaster boats. In the Central region, we have Rapid Camp in Sagana, which is popular for canoeing.

The thing, however, is that most of us partake in the activities mentioned for the fun of it; the adrenaline that arises from it. However, I suggest that we should give a shot at participating at a more professional and competitive level.

Remember, Ferdinand Omanyala also recently set Kenya on the map as a sprinter. Before him, the shortest race that we would take part in was the 800m. The same way our country is popular for being good at running in long-distance races, is the same way we could be good at aquatic sports.

My parents remind me all the time about how they taught themselves to swim along the rivers back in their heyday. Swimming happens to be  an essential life skill. We’ve heard of people dying from drowning, and in most cases, those around them lacked the skills to save them. In addition to that, swimming and other water sports activities have a lot of benefits, especially the healing effect that water tends to have on us humans.

Maybe, we should have fewer clubs and more pools. The same way Kenya is popular for our excellence in athletics, with world-record holders such as the late Kelvin Kiptum, Eliud Kipchoge and Faith Kipyegon, is the same way, I believe, we have the potential to equally excel in more aquatic sports. We are a record-breaking country, as proven in the past, thus records famously set by the likes of Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky can be broken by our very own, if  only we choose to empower and invest in aquatic sports.

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