The Safaricom Athletics series which is now in its fifth year yesterday kicked off the annual athletics calendar with a Kshs 65 million sponsorship, an amount that includes direct cash sponsorship as well as marketing, event support and merchandise. The series has so far been a key feature for many communities in Kenya. The event brings together many athletes from all corners of the country. Given the right support, athletics has become a fundamental sport in Kenya all the way from Eldoret – the home of champions – down to Wundanyi where prominent athletes from the Coastal region train at.
Speaking during the launch Safaricom Director for Regional Sales and Operations Steve Okeyo said the return of the Series signified the company’s continued commitment to supporting the identification and nurturing of sporting talent across the country. He said that the Foundation as a whole have seen the powerful role that sports plays in uniting Kenyans, uplifting families and creating careers.
He went further to explain how many of the current generation of athletics stars have participated in the Safaricom Athletics Series, with the likes of Conseslus Kipruto and Nicholas Bett actually catapulting their careers through this event and going on to represent Kenya at the 2016 Olympics.
Safaricom will also sponsor the IAAF World Under 18 Championships trials taking place in Nairobi from 12th – 16th July. Though not included in the Athletics Series, the sponsorship will feed into its efforts by providing financial support in line with Safaricom’s continued investment in sports in Kenya.
While handing over the cheque to Jackson Tuwei, the Athletics Kenya President, Mr Okeyo said that the sponsorship of the IAAF World Under 18 Championships is a testament to their belief in the wealth of sporting talent they have among the youth. Having experienced the power of bringing people together through sports, Mr Okeyo said that they would like to see more stars being discovered through this sponsorship, as they work together with organizations such as Athletics Kenya and the Deaf Athletics Association of Kenya among others to ensure that Kenya continues to be recognized as the home of athletics champions.
A key example of how the Athletics series has helped the community is with the Henry Wanyoike Foundation. Henry Wanyoike first made headlines in the year 2000 where he won the 5000 meters run at the Sydney Paralympic games with the help of his guide. Wanyoike who suffered a stroke at the age of 21 woke up one morning blind and he felt that his world was coming to an end until he discovered running.
Over the years, Henry’s performances have catapulted him to prominence not just in Kenya but to the rest of the world. With the launch of the Henry Wanyoike Foundation in 2005, he aims to improve the plight of the disabled by enlightening the community on the needs of people with disabilities as well as enriching the lives of the disabled. The Henry Wanyoike Foundation will be holding a ‘Hope for the future’ run on the 3rd of June 2017 where they will sensitize the community on the importance of waging war against lifestyle diseases.
The Safaricom Athletics Series will feature a line-up of nine long distance races and three track and field events, bringing the total to 12 events this year.
In addition to the races, Safaricom will hold free medical camps organized and managed by the Safaricom Foundation and its partners, who will offer free medical consultation and treatment of minor ailments to residents of the areas toured by the Series.
Last week, the Safaricom Deaf Half marathon, one of the races under the Safaricom Athletics Series banner, took place in Meru and saw Peter Toroitich and Juster Kwamesa win the men’s and women’s 21 km races respectively. The deaf half marathon is the first of 11 races under the 2017 edition of the Safaricom Athletics Series. The next race on the calendar is the Safaricom National Deaf Athletics Championships, which will take place in Uasin Gishu County on the 23rd and 24th of May.