Kenya's diversification agenda bears fruits in Accra

The country’s diversification agenda was ripped bare for all to see as various disciplines punched above their weight to provide fodder for naysayers.

In Summary

• Kenya finished 10th overall with 37 medals including eight gold, eight silver and 21 bronze.


Kenya Air Force Seargent Edwin Okong'o receives The Certificate of Commanders Commendation from Commander Kenya Air Force (KAF), Major General John Omenda.
Kenya Air Force Seargent Edwin Okong'o receives The Certificate of Commanders Commendation from Commander Kenya Air Force (KAF), Major General John Omenda.
Image: KDF

As expected, Kenya did not top the athletics medal table at the just concluded African Games in Accra, Ghana. However, Team Kenya made a statement in several other disciplines.

The country’s diversification agenda was ripped bare for all to see as various disciplines punched above their weight to provide fodder for naysayers.

Kenya finished 10th overall with 37 medals including eight gold, eight silver and 21 bronze.

Unlike years before, the limelight was not just on athletics but on disciplines often referred to as ‘small sports’. Tennis was the talk of the town as Angela Okutoyi did the unthinkable.

The 2022 Wimbledon doubles junior champion defeated Egyptian Abdelaziz Lamiz 6-4 6-2 to win the singles title, a first for Kenya since 1978.

Angela Okutoyi
Angela Okutoyi

Okutoyi, seeded fourth at the tournament, had edged another Egyptian, 70th-ranked Mayar Sheriff 5-7 7-5 7-6 in an epic semifinal. The win saw Okutoyi edge closer to qualification for the Paris Olympics.

However, she must improve her world rankings from 532 to 400 to qualify for the Summer Games.

“If I qualify for the Olympics, I would like to take it slow and not put myself under too much pressure,” she said in an interview. Mental toughness was key.

“My journey has not been easy and I was able to post excellent results because of hard work. It has been one opponent at a time and I am happy after accomplishing my mission here.”

In boxing, Kenya’s Edwin Okong’o lived up to his promise of delivering gold as he beat Morocco’s Yassine Elouarz 3-1 in the men’s middleweight (75kg) final.

It was the first Kenyan African Games title since Suleiman Bilali’s at the 2007 edition in Algiers, Algeria. Okongo, who fought North Africans from the onset, vowed that losing was not an option after reaching the final.

He beat Helal Mohamed Habib of Tunisia in the quarterfinals and Algeria’s Ahmed Abdelrraouf Ghazi in the semis.

His efforts did not go unnoticed. He received the Certificate of Commanders Commendation and was promoted from Corporal to Sergeant by Commander Kenya Air Force (KAF) Major General John Omenda.

“Well done and congratulations for the good work put out there. It’s of great joy that your winning has come during the ongoing promotion and for that, let this rank be a motivation and morale to you so you can keep winning,” said Omenda.

Javelin thrower Julius Yego
Javelin thrower Julius Yego
Image: FILE

Then there was the 2015 world javelin champion Julius Yego, who has struggled in the recent past. He showed the world what to expect at the Paris Olympics with a mesmerising throw of 81.74m to win a silver medal.

He would have won the gold medal but stepped on the white line when he threw 84 metres — just a metre outside the Olympic qualification requirement.

Nigeria’s Nnamdi won the title with 82.80m while Egyptian Abdel Khaliq Moustafa’s 78.10m was good enough for the bronze. The other Kenyan, Alexander Kiprotich, finished sixth with 75.45m.

Yego, the 2016 Olympic silver medallist is responding well to competition.

“I am happy things are looking up and I expect to achieve my targets (85.5m qualification for Paris) by May this year,” he assured.

His next stop is the Kip Keino Classic in Nairobi on April 20. He plans to maintain his current training regimen.

“Only Kip Keino Classic is in my plans,” he said. “However,  my manager will advise on the next assignment. I may compete in Doha (Diamond League on May 10).”

He has two paths to the Olympics; attain the automatic 85.5m throw or depend on the rankings. He prefers the former, adding that the ranking can be counter-productive.

The rankings accommodate almost 36 athletes at the Olympics. “I just want to push for normal qualification,” he said. “Throwing 81.74m in Accra means I can improve.”

Winnie Bii displays her medal after winning silver in triple jump
Winnie Bii displays her medal after winning silver in triple jump

Like Yego, United States-based Winnie Bii proved there are plenty of opportunities in field events as she hopped to a triple jump silver medal.

Bii covered 13.64 metres to finish behind Nigeria’s Ruth Usoro, who posted 13.80m. Senegalese Sarr completed the podium after recording 13.60m.

Winning a medal has been her dream. “Winning a medal for Kenya at the African Games is a dream come true. I have always wanted to compete for Kenya in field events and I am happy this came to pass.”

She will fly back to the United States and continue training ahead of the national Olympic trials in Nairobi.

“The Olympic Games are my next target if I can get the qualifying jump. I want to build on this success,” she noted.

The Olympic qualifying standard is 14.52m. “I am not in a hurry. Just a day at a time. The bottom line is that triple jump is my passion and I want to pursue it seriously,” she said.

Edwin Kimutai also opened the country’s eyes in regard to opportunities in the decathlon by bagging a silver medal. He promised to build up on the medal and ensure he continues to shine on bigger platforms.

Overall athletics were the biggest winners in the Kenyan delegation with six gold, six silver and eight bronze medals.

The country had surprise gold in the women’s 10,000m through Janet Chepng’etich and men’s 800m courtesy of Aron Cheminigwa.

Emily Ngii (20km walk), Beatrice Chepkoech (3000m steeplechase) and Mary Moraa (400m) struck gold medals too.

The silver medallists were Samuel Gathimba (20km walk), Amos Serem (3000m Steeplechase), Alex Ngeno (800m), Edwin Kimutai (decathlon) and Winnie Bii ( triple jump). Evans Kiptum (10000m), Abel Kipsang (1500m), Simon Kiprop (3000m steeplechase), Cornelius Kemboi (men’s 5,000m), Mary Ekiru (women’s 1500m), Vivian Kiprotich (800m), Nancy Jepleting (half marathon) and the 4x400m mixed relay team won bronze medals.

Volleyball, beach and indoor, posted mixed results but the men’s indoor team, Wafalme, deserve a mention. Despite losing 3-0 to Egypt in the final, they gave a good account of themselves. The last time they made an impact was in 2011 in Maputo, when they won a silver medal.

National men's volleyball team Wafalme
National men's volleyball team Wafalme

However, coach Japheth Munala is concerned with the women’s team, Malkia Strikers’ performance ahead of the Olympics. They have to go back to the drawing board before the Summer Games.

Malkia fell 3-2 to Egypt in the semis. Egypt went on to win the title after beating Tunisia 3-0 in the final.

“We must go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate the players. This is unacceptable,” he observed.

The beach teams were eliminated in the quarters. Taekwondo and weightlifting left a mark too. Weightlifter Julia Ongonga won three bronze in the women’s 81kg category and Esther Mboya had two in the 45kg contest. Faith Ogallo (over 73kg ), Mary Muriu (U-30), Milka Akinyi (U-40) and Jully Musingi (U-73kg) won a bronze each in taekwondo.

Most team leaders complained about short periods in training camp and lack of exposure. If the two areas are addressed, winning medals will be less of a problem.

Generally, Team Kenya was organised with funding among their few challenges.

Sports Principal Secretary Peter Tum
Sports Principal Secretary Peter Tum
Image: FILE

Chef de Mission David Ngugi, CEO Andrew Mudibo, Kenya National Sports Council secretary James Akama and the entire KNSC hierarchy proved anything is possible with the right structures and good organisation.

Sports Principal Secretary Peter Tum, who was with the team in Accra, Ghana, said they are working on several projects to ensure athletes are comfortable.

He asked athletes to invest wisely to secure their future. He said athletes have problems managing their earnings and the ministry is working on financial management training for them.

They are working on a Cabinet Memo with the help of experts geared toward athletes’ social welfare. He also wants athletes to seek jobs with the National Police Service, Kenya Defence Forces and Kenya Prisons Service.

Team Kenya medallists


Gold: Brian Komen (men’s 1500m), Aaron Cheminingwa (men’s 800m), Janet Chepngetich (women’s 10000m), Emily Ngii (women’s 20km walk), Beatrice Chepkoech (women’s 3000m steeplechase), Mary Moraa (women’s 400m)

Silver: Samuel Gathima (men’s 20km walk), Amos Serem (men’s 3000m steeplechase), Alex Ngeno (men’s 800m), Edwin Kimutai (men’s decathlon), Julius Yego (men’s javelin), Winny Bii (women’s triple jump)

Bronze: Evans Kiptum (men’s 10000m), Abel Kipsang (men’s 1500m), Simon Kiprop (men’s 3000m steeplechase), Cornelius Kemboi (men’s 5,000m), Mary Ekiru (women’s 1500m), Vivian Kiprotich (women’s 800m), Nancy Jepleting (women’s half marathon), 4x400m mixed relay

Boxing: Edwin Okong’o (men’s 75kg gold), Amina Martha (women’s 54kg bronze)

Hockey: Women’s  team (bronze)

Rugby: Kenya men’s rugby Sevens (bronze)

Taekwondo: Faith Ogallo (women’s over 73kg bronze), Mary Muriu (women’s U-30 bronze), Milka Akinyi (women’s U-40 bronze), Jully Musingi (women’s U-73kg bronze)

Tennis: Angela Okutoyi (women’s singles gold and doubles silver)

Volleyball: Kenya men’s team (silver), Kenya women’s team (bronze)

Weightlifting: Esther Mboya (women’s 45kg bronze)

Esther Mboya (women’s 45kg snatch bronze)

Julia Ongonga (women’s 81kg bronze)

Julia Ongonga (women’s 81kg clean—jerk bronze)

Julia Ongonga (women’s 81kg snatch bronze)