Legendary long distance runner Paul Tergat was yesterday elected unopposed to take the helm at the National Olympic Committee of Kenya. Former embattled NOCK chairman Kipchoge Keino, who was also a successful athlete, had earlier stepped down to leave Tergat the only worthy contender.
The road to getting a new NOCK chairman has been fraught with disagreements, forcing involvement of the Sports Dispute Tribunal and the High Court. Patrick Muyah, another contender was knocked out by the General Assembly.
Tergat now has the arduous task of cleaning up the massively tainted image of NOCK. The committee has often made the wrong headlines, most recently being mismanagement and misappropriation during the Rio Olympics.
Some officials are said to have stolen team uniforms, forcing athletes to make do with inadequate kits. In another case some officials pocketed cash meant for the team’s accommodation, forcing senior athletes to put up in favelas (slums in Brazil).
In his acceptance speech, Tergat said he is undaunted at the task ahead and that he is prepared to restore public confidence in NOCK. He also said that athletes’ welfare is top of his priorities. He added that retired athletes will also be taken care of under his stewardship.
Tergat’s accomplishments in a successful athletics career include five straight IAAF World Cross Country Championships from 1995 to 1999, Lisbon half Marathon (setting a course record of 59:06) and the world marathon record from 2003 to 2007 (with a time of 2:04:55).
Tergat’s career would not be complete without a mention of his intense track rivalry with Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie. He lost two Olympic 10,000m races to the Ethiopian champion by slim margins. The two remain great friends outside the track.