Kenya: Exposure, Cash Incentives Lift Sprinters Spirits

Kenya's sprinters flew out of Tokyo's Narita Airport Sunday night motivated by a promising performance at the IAAF World Relays in Yokohama.

The country's teams in the 4x400 metres mixed relay (Jared Momanyi, Maureen Nyatichi Thomas, Hellen Syombua and Aron Koech) and 4x200 metres men's relay (Mark Otieno, Mike Mokamba, Samuel Chege and Alphas Kishoyian) are also basking in the glory of pocketing a total of Sh3.2 million after finishing third and fourth, respectively, on the final day of competition at the Nissan Stadium on Sunday.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) offers cash awards to the top eight teams at these championships with winners bagging $50,000 (Sh5 million), second placed teams $30,000 (Sh3 million) and third placed squads $20,000 (Sh2 million).

The prizes trickle down to eight place in the following order: Sh1.2 million, Sh1 million, Sh800,000, Sh600,000 and Sh400,000, amounts shared out among the four athletes in each team.

While the cash is certainly good motivation, the Kenyan athletes here were more inspired by the narrowing gap with traditional sprints powerhouses.

"Kenyan sprints are developing well but we need more support to keep competing at games like this one," Kishioyan said after running the anchor leg in the 2x400m final.

"Last time when the championships were held in Bahamas, we were seventh, and now we are fourth which is a great improvement."

Otieno, who ran the opening leg, couldn't agree more. "The progression hasn't been bad and we are really improving. We really need lots of races and lots of support, like sponsorship to motivate us to reach somewhere." Rookie Chege, who concentrates his training in Ngong, said representing Kenya for the first time was humbling and the experience enriching.

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