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5 Kenyans in most ‘unlikely’ sports

All Kenyans do is running, right? Wrong. Javelin thrower Julius Yego’s phenomenal achievement of clinching gold at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China on Wednesday proved that there is alot more than just running amongst Kenyan athletes.

Other than Yego, there are many more Kenyans who have gone out of their comfort zones to seek success in the most ‘unlikely’ sports. Here are five of the best:

1. Daniel Adongo (American Football)

Given the country success in the game of rugby, it is hard to believe that we have never had a Kenyan play in the American National Football League. Well, until Daniel Adongo happened.

It is perhaps no surprise then that our ambassador in the NFL is a former rugby player, the mammoth of a man who answers to the nickname Liech (elephant in Dholuo).

Standing at 1.98m tall and weighing in at 115kg, Adongo is the perfect hitting machine for any rugby or football team.

The hardest task for Indianapolis Colts coach, who had the brilliant idea to find a beast of a rugby player to transform into an outside linebacker, was to facilitate that transition.

Adongo finally did, and in December 2013, he was picked for the active roster as a rookie outside linebacker. Some reports have it that he earns Sh 35 million a year while some people think he is Nigerian.

2. Julius Yego (Javelin)

Whoever said the only thing we young men are doing online is chatting up ladies and surfing the blue side of the internet should meet Yego. This is a man who knows how to throw javelins, a skill he learnt from YouTube.

In 2006, Yego held the national junior title at 67 meters. Yego searched for instructional videos featuring Jan Zelezny and Andreas Thorkildsen, both multiple Olympic and World Champions in javelin.

He did not have a coach until IAAF gave him a scholarship to train in Finland.

“It’s how the javelin flies. When you release it and it flies high, you know it is going far,” he says of his technique that has now earned him a coveted World Championship title.


Julius Yego makes his winning throw of 92.72 at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China. PHOTO | AFP
Julius Yego makes his winning throw of 92.72 at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China. PHOTO | AFP

3. Philip Boit (Winter Olympian)

While Kenya tends to beat everyone during the Summer Olympics in track events, we are conspicuously absent from the Winter Games because of – well – the snow.

In 1915 Nike had a ridiculously ambitious plan to turn an athlete into a skier. They figured that since both sports required moving your limbs really fast, how hard could it be?

The guinea pigs were Philip Boit and Henry Bitok, although Kenya had a single slot in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.

Boit saw snow for the first time in 1996, two years before he participated in the Nagano Olympics. Learning how to ski was like being a toddler all over again, falling down time and again.

4. Paul Wekesa (Lawn Tennis)

Virtually unknown in Kenya today, Paul Wekesa is the only Kenyan tennis player to reach Top 100 of ATP rankings.

He did this in 1995 alone, raking in Sh 45 million in prize money in his career.

Born in 1967 to politician Noah Wekesa, Paul would go on to win the doubles tournament at the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships and a bronze medal at the 4th All Africa Games in 1987 in Nairobi.

He later scooped three ATP Tour Doubles titles and achieved one of his most impressive feats in 1989 when he reached the quarter finals of the doubles at the Australia Open.

However, 1995 was by far his best year as he featured in the Wimbeldon, French Open and the US Open.

Sports enthusiasts probably remember him when he featured in the Davis Cup Team, leading Kenya to success in the Euro-African zone in 1992.

5. The Oduya Brothers (Ice Hockey)

Their father, George Oduya, was a journalist who went to Sweden for studies and married a Swedish wife. Their two sons, Fredrik and Johnny, became professional ice hockey players. Freddy, the elder of the two, never got to play in the NHL.

He was known as “Freddy Knuckles” or “The Swedish Nightmare” for his goonish habits on the ice. Although he was only a T-blades enforcer in the minor leagues, Freddy got into so many fights that there is a whole page dedicated to it.

It is no surprise that he ended up retiring twice due to injuries, his final retirement being in 2000 due to a back injury. Freddy died eleven years later in a motorcycle accident in Austria.