Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Kenyan in Winter Olympic but do we say?
Kenya's one-man team a flag-bearer for Africans
By Aileen Kimutai, Nairobi February 8, 2006
THE snows of the Italian alps are a far cry from Philip Boit's dusty equatorial hometown in central Kenya, but the lone member of the east African nation's Winter Olympics team is undaunted.
Eight years after finishing dead last in his 10-kilometre cross-country skiiing event at the Nagano Games and four years after improving to 66th out of 77 racers in Salt Lake City, Boit is out for glory this year in Turin.
But glory for the 33-year-old former soldier who made history as Kenya's first winter Olympian in the 1998 Games in Japan is not a gold or silver or even a bronze medal. It is respect.
"I want to make sure I beat other African skiers in Turin," he said after he and a member of the Kenyan Olympic Federation became the first team to check in this week. "I also want to improve on my time."
Kenya is well-known for producing world-class long-distance runners but, like most African nations, has seen little success in winter sports that are largely foreign on a continent where snow and cold temperatures are rare.
Boit grew up in Eldoret, a town regarded as the breadbasket of Kenyan athletes, including his cousin, Mike Boit, who was a dominant figure in the world in the 800 metres in the 1970s.
Unable to match his cousin's skills, Boit joined an elite Kenyan army unit believing his sporting days were over. But former Kenyan national athletics coach Mike Kosgei saw opportunities when he went to coach in Finland in 1995 and enlisted Boit and countryman Henry Bitok in a bid to expand the country's sporting prowess.