What does it take for a schoolboy to become the best javelin thrower in a country known to produce world class Olympians? Obviously, they will need a professional coach and perhaps some rudimentary knowledge on how they should go about throwing the javelin. They would also likely need a great deal of time to practice. If all these somewhat end up being absent, one would expect that they would at least have a javelin right? Wrong. Meet Samuel, a soft-spoken class seven student from Uaso Nyiro primary school in Laikipia County. During the national athletics games earlier this year, he emerged the best at Javelin in the entire country, which is not in itself as fantastic as the fact that he achieved this feat without having access to a real javelin except during the competitions. He says he uses a stick to practice the few hours he can get since his morning and afternoon hours are spent walking/running to school or home. A staggering 10 Kilometers, each way.
Mr Waruguru the games master and his assistant, Teacher Millicent are gushing with praises for the boy. They however admit that lack of the requisite hardware made it impossible to proceed farther. “He is a very bright and hardworking boy”, Waiguru says. He adds that it would be unlikely that anyone else would have achieved so much with so little. He describes the boy’s journey to the top and explains how difficult it was especially without a javelin. As one moves up the levels from district to county, regional and nationals, the javelin tends to get heavier. However, since the boy only has a light stick for practice, this makes it very difficult for him to cope. And yet there stands the humble boy, taking the lemons that life throws his way and hurling his way to victory. Although he did not make the cut for the international trials that were held in South America, there is little doubt that if he had been given half a chance on a level platform, he would have set records.
It appears that javelin, as a sport is not taken very seriously in Kenya given that the current world record holder Julius Yego had to learn the steps through YouTube in the absence of a coach. However even with so little to start with, he made his way to sporting glory dwarfing traditional champions and proving that Kenyans are good for much more than running.
Evidently, given the fact that even after his sterling performance there have been no offers to nurture Samuel’s obvious talent, it might fizzle and be discarded into obscurity. A fate sadly shared by many like him. When he talked to PA-MOJA, he expressed his hope that there may be someone willing to sponsor him; his teachers echoed these sentiments. Samuel is not alone; the school has a squad known as the big five, which consists of five boys who have represented their school in major sporting events. Julius Lopano, emerged the fourth best in Long jump and the 1500 meter dash, while Stephen Kirima and John Lekwale represented the school in the 400 meters and long jump respectively. John and Julius also expressed optimism that someone will notice their talent and provide sponsorship or some other support to encourage their budding careers. All of them have displayed unique talents that would probably be recognised locally and even internationally in a more nurturing environment.
Unfortunately, in this neck of the woods, kids have learnt that becoming the best does not necessarily mean their lives change for the better or even at all. Mr. Waguguru feels that since the boy has been working without a coach or javelin, with just a little help, Samuel will take his rightful place among champions.
By Ian Mungai