Kenya’s Olympic team feted on arrival

August 28th, 2008 | by addis portal |

NAIROBI (AFP) — Kenya’s successful Beijing Olympic team returned home to a jubilant reception on Wednesday.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and the Sports Minister Helen Sambili welcomed the athletes who won 14 medals: five gold, five silver and four bronze, registering Kenya’s best ever performance at the summer Games since 1968.

The east Africa nation also topped the continent in the medals table, finishing 15th overall.

“Your success in Beijing has brought a big honour not only to Kenya, but the whole of Africa,” Kalonzo told the athletes shortly after arrival at the country’s main airport.

Drum beating traditional dancers, ululating fans and other dignitaries met the track champions who joined in joyful dance at the airport concourse before being treated to sour milk sipped from a gourd – a tradition of Kenya’s Kalenjin tribe which is responsible for the bulk of the country’s runners.

Although they may have lost their long distance domination to regional rivals Ethiopia, Kenya showed their pedigree in the middle distance, scooping both the men’s and women’s 800m titles and the women’s 1500m.

They also won the elusive men’s marathon title when 21-year-old Samuel Kamau Wansiru ended the long drought by becoming the first Kenyan to triumph over the 42-km race.

In a show of recognition, the government has for the first time offered to reward the athletes with cash bonuses.

Gold medallists will receive 750,000 shillings (around 11,000 dollars) each, while silver medallists will get 500,000 shillings. Other local companies have also pledged cash prizes.

Kenya’s president Mwai Kibaki is to present the awards in the coastal town of Mombasa on Friday. In addition, the athletes will be treated to luncheons, diners and tours for three days.

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