St Patrick’s Iten gave Kenya some of its fine athletes

Sunday September 7 2008

JACKIE LEBO’S article on athletics and athletes in the Iten area, (“Sweaty secrets of Kenya’s running factory,” August 11-17) was well-researched and imaginative.

However, she left out the contribution of St Patrick’s High School, Iten, to the Kenyan success story.

The school has produced numerous Olympic gold medallists, world champions, world record holders and world junior champions.

Started in 1961, St Patrick’s first real mark in sports was on the volleyball pitch.

Shortly after the arrival in Kenya in 1968 of Marcellus Broderick (an Irish friar educated in California) did Iten begin to emerge as a sporting giant. Mr Marcellus led the school to no less than 17 back-to-back national championships in volleyball.

In 1976, another friar, Colm O’connell, joined the school. He later became instrumental in organising local races and training many athletes.

The athletes who passed through his hands include Peter Rono (1988 olympics gold, 1500m), Matthew Birir (1992 olympics gold, 3000m steeplechase), Wilson Kipketer (800m world champion 2000, and world record holder), Wilson Boit Kipketer (former world record holder, 3000m steeplechase and 2001 world champion), Wilberforce Talel (2003 world champion, 10,000m), Sally Barsosio, Tecla Lorupe, Helen Kimaiyo, Salina Chirchir, Lorna Kiplagat, Joseph Saina, Kipkoech and Charles Cheruiyot, William Kosgei Chemitei and Joseph Tengelei.

St Patrick’s also won national championships in basketball, hockey, lawn tennis, table tennis, decathlon, choir, science congress and swimming.

To cap it all, the school was also a force in academic circles featuring among the leading three schools in Kenya in the A-level system.

St Patrick’s Iten was, really, the first leadership academy in Africa, well ahead of its time.

Patrick Njaywe

Nairobi

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Emulate Rwanda’s kind of democracy

TWO ARTICLES in last week’s issue made very interesting reading on Rwanda’s upcoming elections.

The pieces — “RPF coalition tipped to win Rwanda polls” and “It’s Rwandans’ turn at the polls” — brought home the strides that Rwanda has made since the 1994 genocide.

What came out clearly was that even though the Rwanda Patriotic Front is expected to literally walk to victory, it has so far not demonised nor tried to run the opposition out of town as is the case with many elections in the region.

Also, the kind of democracy practised in Rwanda ensures the winner goes home with the trophy but still gives the opposition a part of the government to share as recognised by the constitution.

Equally, the high number of women contestants — 35 in all — on the Rwanda Patriotic Front’s 80-member list is something countries in the region could go for.

Peter Wanyala

Kigali