Kenyan paralympian recalls challenges of first race

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-30 19:57:11|Editor: Xiaoxia
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NAIROBI, July 30 (Xinhua) -- As a young boy, Henry Wanyoike harbored the dream of joining the elite group of athletes in Kenya, a country that has produced more world-class middle and long-distance runners than any other country has done.

During that time, he excelled at the 5,000m and 10,000m events in school competitions where he used to compete at national levels.

However, when he lost his sight in 1995 at the age of 21, his world crumbled and fell into despair. "I went to bed a normal person and woke up in total darkness the following morning," Wanyoike, 45, told Xinhua.

He was enrolled at Machakos Technical Training Institute for the Blind in eastern Kenya, where under his new predicament Wanyoike took part in his first competition during the Olympic Day Run. He went on to win the race and bag a spot in the Kenyan team for the 2000 Sydney Paralympics.

"I brought home a gold medal after going through a lot of challenges. My guide, Joseph Kibunja, suffered from a bout of malaria and had not recovered by the time of the competition," he said.

Blind runners are connected to a guide by a tether on the wrist, which the guide uses to subtly indicate, without breaking stride, when to turn, accelerate or avoid an obstacle, whether on the track or on the road, as in a marathon.

The pressure on Wanyoike increased even further as during the start of the race, when other runners who were being introduced as champions from other competitions, he was introduced only by name.

Wanyoike told his guide they needed a better introduction, and would only do this by using their feet.

"After the seventh lap, I had lapped all the 'champions' and by the 12th lap I lapped them a second time. Some people protested that I was given the wrong classification, so all the champions were forced to go for several tests," he said.

In the last 50m, Wanyoike was literally dragging his guide while relying on people who were outside the track to guide him by giving instructions such as "keep left, keep right" and they still won the race.

The then President Daniel arap Moi called him in Sydney and offered his congratulations and he also had the chance to meet Arnold Schwarzenegger, former professional bodybuilder and then-governor of California who donated some knitting machines for Machakos Technical Training Institute for the Blind.

Since then, Wanyoike has participated in marathons with his first half marathon being in Hong Kong when he beat even sighted people in a field of more than 12,000 participants.