By Gilbert Wandera
When she speaks on TV, many listeners marvel at her accent. Some wonder why world 10,000-metre silver medalist Sally Kipyego has not followed in the footsteps of compatriots such as Bernard Lagat to run for the US having lived and studied there for about ten years.
But it seems the allure of greener pastures has not touched Kipyego as it did 50 Kenyans who are currently running for their adopted countries and will compete with team Kenya in next month’s London Olympics.
Before changing citizenship, Lagat won bronze for Kenya at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and a silver medal in the 2004 Athens Games in the 1,500 metre race.
He became an American citizen in 2004 and three years later, won a double gold for his adopted country by claiming gold medals in the 1,500-metre and 5,000-metre events during the World Athletics Championships in Berlin Germany.
Kipyego, 26, went to America in 2002 and all through her college life she was an outstanding athlete who won several awards on the track before graduating with a degree in nursing.
After completing her degree, Kipyego returned home last year to compete for a place in the national team for the World Athletics Champions held in Daegu, South Korea, where she won a silver medal in her first senior competition.
Kipyego says she came back because the country offered her a better chance of building her athletics career.
“ As a track athlete I can only compete for one country at a time. After completing my studies I was, and still am, a Kenyan citizen so it was obvious that Kenya was the country I would represent,” she said.
She admits that the USA has more opportunities and better facilities but still does not think it would have favoured her desire to pursue a career in athletics.
“There are probably more opportunities in the US and that’s why a lot of people choose to stay and explore but because I choose to run I had to come back to Kenya,” she said.
Because of good facilities in the USA, Kipyego says she prefers to stay and train in the country but has no kind words for local authorities for ignoring to build great facilities for a country that has a rich tradition in athletics.
“It’s a shame that despite the success that our athletes have achieved over the years we still have very few good facilities for them to use,” she says.
No modern stadium
Kipyego is disappointed that places like Iten and Eldoret where hundreds of great athletes reside lack a single modern track/stadium.