By Beth Nyaga
Elderly track and field veterans who rocketed Kenya to global stardom and fame since 1954 met with First Lady Margaret Kenyatta at Moi International Sports Centre, Nairobi, where the WU-18 championships kicked off.
The 185 veterans, all donned in black track-suits , greeted the First Lady at the MISC, Kasarani where President Uhuru Kenyatta formally opened the iconic WU-18 global track and field extravaganza that will continue for the next four days.
The veterans included Nyandika Mayoro who in 1954 represented Kenya in Vancouver, Canada in the country’s first international outing. Mzee Nyandika was among the veterans who attended today’s ceremonies where he was personally recognized by President Kenyatta.
The heroes were led to Kasarani by their team leader, Julius Kariuki, the 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist in Steeple Chase, Seoul, South Korea.
According to Barnabas Kinyor, the 400 metres Bronze Medalist during the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, the heroes wanted to pass a message to the First Lady seeking government assistance to form an association of veterans.
“We want to pass a message to the government through our First Lady to raise several issues including assistance to form a Veterans Association”, said Kinyor.
He said some of the veterans were suffering in abject poverty, even after winning medals and bringing glory to the country in their hey-days.
After meeting with the veterans , the First Lady walked into the parked stadium flanked by some elite athletes including David Rudisha, Julius Yego and Tecla Lorupe where she greeted thousands of sporting enthusiasts, athletes and their officials drawn from 131 countries.
After walking for several metres, the First lady and her team broke into running as the crowds excitedly applauded in acknowledgement and approval.
The First Lady is associated with running half marathons both locally and abroad, aimed at raised funds for the Beyond Zero initiative.
The stadium erupted into further and prolonged excitement and approval from the crowds when President Kenyatta received the First Lady at the main dias where she ended her short race.
Earlier, 300 pupils from Daniel Komboni, Muthaiga and Parklands primary schools, all donning red track suits associated with Kenya, entered the stadium waiving flags representing all the countries participating in the biennial games.
The children went ahead of form a ring around the main competition arena before entertainment groups including drummers and sarakasi dancers among others rocked the stadium with a series of percussions , dance and some acrobatics- showcasing the best of culture and art from Kenya.
After the opening ceremonies of the event, the President and the First Lady remained in the main competition arena to watch several track competitions including the competitive 3,000 metres . They were later joined by Deputy President William Ruto.
Despite a sudden downpour that soaked the field and the tracks, the competitions and training sessions went on unhindered .