Half a century ago, at the high altitude (2,195 metres above sea level) Mexico Olympic Stadium, Kipchoge Keino and Jim Ryun conjured up a metric mile classic.
A selfless act by Kipchoge’s compatriot Ben Jipcho set the pace for the 1,500 metres final of the 1968 Olympic Games.
Jipcho took the lead from the gun and set a blistering pace – featuring a 55.98-second opening lap – knowing just what to do for policeman Keino to take the gold.
With two laps to go, “Kip” hit the front in what television commentators of the day described as “suicidal pace”, and rightfully so as it was inside world record pace.
At the bell, “Kip” was about 22 metres ahead of Ryun who was fast closing in on the German pair of Bodo Tummler and Harald Norpoth occupying second and third place.
“Kip” went on to win in an Olympic record three minutes, 34.91 seconds with Ryun (3:37.89) amazingly fighting for silver with Tummler (3:39.08) taking bronze.
Some 51 years later, Keino and Ryun were among mile legends celebrated by World Athletics (formerly International Association of Athletics Federations) at a nostalgic reception in Monaco on Thursday night.
Hosted by World Athletics President Seb Coe, himself a mile legend, the ceremony attracted a dozen legends of the distance, including 1956 Olympic 1,500m champion, Irishman Ron Delaney.
They were joined by latter day champions, among them the current record holder over the mile and 1,500m, Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj, Algeria’s Noureddine Morceli, Tanzania’s Filbert Bayi and New Zealand’s John Walker.
The night’s festivities were, of course, focused around Briton Roger Bannister, the athlete-turned-medic who was first man to run a sub-four-minute mile in 1954.
Bannister died on March 3 last year, and his daughters Charlotte and Erin represented the legend at Thursday’s nostalgic ceremony at Monaco’s Le Meridien Hotel.
In his keynote speech, that, interestingly, lasted four minutes and 25 seconds, just 26 seconds outside Bannister’s ground-breaking sub-four-minute mile, Coe celebrated the iconic distance.
“I’m a miler, I’ve been a miler all my life, but this is not the beginning of a confession in a self-help group or preparation for an Oprah interview,” the humorous Briton joked and went on to compare the mile to a play.
“I’ve always seen the race as a four-act play,” he launched his analogy.
“In the first lap, the curtain rises, the stage being set… the cast is introduced and they start finding their rhythm.
“In the second lap, the plot becomes a little clearer. Is this going to be a cat-and-mouse thriller or somebody will grab the race, the audience and the spectators by the throat and steal the show?
“This is the lap where you are figuring out whether you will stick to your race plan or jump into the prevailing tactics.
“The third lap beckons. This is the business end of the race. Whether it’s fast or slow, this is the critical lap, as it’s all about positioning and covering in your head and on the ground…
“To win you must be in the best possible position and able to deal with absolutely anything that is thrown at you as the bell chimes for the final lap.
“With every passing metre, the aim is to be focused and not compromising… the race needs to be brought home.”
Coe concluded: “For all the non-milers, the mile is a metaphor for life way, way beyond the track.”
Besides winning the 1,500m gold at the Mexico Olympics, the multi-talented Keino also won gold in the steeplechase at the 1972 Munich Games and was brilliant in the 5,000m and 10,000m, but he respected the mile most.
“I wanted to be a good miler when I saw of film of Dr Roger Bannister,” he explained to the audience.
“I tried the 800m, moved to 1,500m, 5,000m, 3,000m steeplechase.
“I’d take part in any event, from the 800m right up to the 10,000m, but the mile and 1,500m were the easiest events for me to take part in.”
American legend Ryun recalled his high altitude Mexico ’68 battle with Keino.
“I was very honoured to represent the US and to get a silver medal towards my treasured possessions,” he said.
Keino chipped in: “I knew there was Jim Ryun, the world record holder. I tried my best to be the best in the 1,500m and I trained in high altitude and was able to perform.”
Honour our nurses … they pay the ultimate price for us to live
On June 18, Moses Gitonga Ringera, the clinical nurse who succumbed to Covid-19 recently, reported to work at the University of Nairobi Clinic as usual.
But he started complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath hours later.
“When he was examined, his blood sugar was very high despite him not having a history of diabetes,” said his wife, Lucyline Gitonga, during an interview with the Nation.
Because of the Covid-19 symptoms, he was rushed to the Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH) and was put in isolation. At the unit, his condition was confirmed.
Gitonga was the second case of a Covid-19 death of a healthcare professional in the country. He would have celebrated his 50th birthday on August 21, his wife told the Nation.
On admission, the 49-year-old nurse never woke up; he died at the intensive care unit, having fought the virus for a week.
“I was called from the hospital and informed that he had died on June 24 at 6.30am,” she said.
The medical professional was buried at his home in Kunene, Tigania West, in Meru County on June 30.
Mrs Gitonga, a nurse working in Meru, said the last time she saw him was in March, just before curfew.
“He had come home and because of the restrictions, he could not come again. When he got ill, we just spoke over the phone to inform me of his condition,” she said.
“We are still mourning. We are still seeing him. We feel as if he is still with us but we are beginning to realise that we are alone. It is deeply painful.”
The nurse said her husband contracted the virus in the line of duty as he sacrificed his life for Kenyans.
“Healthcare workers should be protected. They should be given personal protective equipment and their families should be compensated in case of death so that their children can continue with their lives,” she said.
“There should be an enabling environment… healthcare workers should have insurance.”
Before Gitonga, Clifford Manyara Mburia, a 58-year-old anaesthetist who was working at Kitengela Medical Centre, succumbed to the virus.
He passed on at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) on June 15 after contracting the virus in the line of duty and was buried on June 22 in Kithiru, Weru in Tharaka Nithi County.
Mburia had two children.
“It was discovered posthumously that he had contracted the virus,” said Alfred Obengo, President of the National Nurses Association of Kenya.
Speaking to the Nation, his daughter Shirleen Gakii, 25, said, “We could not imagine it. I have never seen him admitted to a hospital, his death was untimely.”
He developed a cough and died only a day after being admitted at KNH, she said.
“I was called by his friend who informed me of his demise. I later learnt that he passed on because he had Covid-19,” Gakii said.
The first-year student at Chuka University said life has been hard without both of their parents.
She and her brother, a second-year KCA University student, are afraid they may not be able to complete their studies for lack of finances.
The latest health worker to pay the ultimate price was Dr Doreen Adisa Lugaliki, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist, who died on Friday at Aga Khan Hospital.
Dr Lugaliki was buried on Monday in Bungoma County.
Currently, some 361 healthcare workers have tested positive for the disease, which has already killed 197 Kenyans.
World hunger worsening as Covid-19 weighs and obesity rises: UN
Nearly one in nine people in the world are going hungry, with the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating already worsening trends this year, according to a United Nations report published Monday.
Economic slowdowns and climate-related shocks are pushing more people into hunger, while nutritious foods remain too expensive for many, contributing not only to undernourishment, but to growing rates of obesity in adults and children.
“After decades of long decline, the number of people suffering from hunger has been slowly increasing since 2014,” said the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World annual report.
Not only did people need enough food, but nutritious food, the study said, citing costly “health and environmental consequences” of sub-par diets.
Nearly 690 million people, or 8.9 per cent of people around the globe, are hungry, the UN found.
That number rose by 10 million people in just one year to 2019, and by 60 million in the past five years, found the study, which said eradicating hunger by 2030 – a goal set five years ago – will be impossible if trends continue.
By 2030, over 890 million people could be affected by hunger, or 9.8 per cent of the world’s population, it estimated.
Five United Nations agencies co-authored the report: the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Last year, the report estimated that over 820 million people were going hungry, but estimates were recalculated following revised data from China for prior years.
When measuring both moderate and severe food insecurity in 2019, the number balloons from 690 million to 2 billion people without “regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food”.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit hard in nations with widespread poverty, could cause another 83 to 132 million people to become undernourished this year, the report said.
Global trends had already been worsening before coronavirus, it said.
About a quarter of Africa’s population could go hungry by 2030 from 19.1 per cent today, already twice the world average.
In Asia, the number of hungry people fell by 8 million people since 2015, although the continent remains home to more than half the world’s undernourished people.
Trends in Latin America and the Caribbean are worsening, with 9 million more hungry people last year than in 2015.
“A key reason why millions of people around the world suffer from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition is because they cannot afford the cost of healthy diets,” found the report.
In all regions, adult obesity is on the rise, with healthy diets of fruits, vegetables and protein-rich foods unaffordable to some 3 billion people.
Over 57 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia cannot afford a healthy diet.
Low-income countries rely on starchy staples like cereals and tubers that can cost 60 percent less than healthy diets, but lack necessary proteins and key vitamins and minerals to reduce infections and ward off disease.
The report found 21.3 per cent of children under five, or 144 million, experienced stunted growth due to malnutrition, most of them in Africa or Asia.
Another 6.9 per cent were “wasted” with nutritional imbalances, while 5.6 per cent were overweight.
Of the overweight children, 45 per cent come from Asia, and 24 per cent from Africa, underscoring how malnutrition takes the form of both undernutrition and obesity.
Current patterns in food consumption are estimated to result in health costs of over $1.3 trillion per year by 2030.
But healthier diets could lower those costs by up to 97 per cent, the report estimated, citing a vegetarian diet with associated health costs of less than $100 million.
Costs are also associated with greenhouse gas emissions caused by today’s food production system which could also be reduced by alternative diets.
While acknowledging high prices for healthy food are due to a variety of factors from insufficient diversification and inadequate food storage to domestic subsidies that favor staples, the report called an “urgent rebalancing of agricultural policies and incentives.”
Lobbying intensifies as MCAs set to table Ngilu impeachment motion
The motion for Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu’s impeachment will be tabled Wednesday following the High Court’s decision against stopping the process.
Justice Weldon Korir’s ruling last week, okaying the motion by majority leader Peter Kilonzo, kicked off a series of meetings, with both sides lobbying for support to either pass or defeat the motion.
Ms Ngilu is facing a spirited effort for her removal from office that was engineered by MCAs in the Wiper party, whose leader is politician Kalonzo Musyoka.
In the 54-member county assembly, Wiper enjoys the majority of 30 elected and nominated MCAs but two members – Kasee Musya (Kisasi) and James Musyoka (Kiomo Kyethani) broke ranks with their party and announced they’ll oppose the motion.
With 28 members remaining, the mover must win the support of eight MCAs from other parties to gather the requisite two thirds majority of 36 votes to see the motion through.
Ms Ngilu’s party, Narc, has 12 members but enjoys the support of MCAs from smaller political parties and independent lawmakers.
Members of the governor’s camp say they have the backing of about 25 MCAs and are sure the motion will fail but Mr Kilonzo said his camp has more than 36 supporters.
Lobbying for numbers has intensified with a caucus of 10 women MCAs throwing their weight behind Governor Ngilu.
The ward reps, led by Anastasia Mwathi of Mutito/Kaliku ward, said the motion is ill-motivated and aimed at distracting Ms Ngilu from the goals in her manifesto.
Ms Mwathi noted that MCAs must be allowed to represent the interests of the people who elected them, not political parties.
“We can’t allow bullying by big parties against a leader who was popularly elected by more than 170,000 votes” she told the Nation on Monday.
She said their proponents will face a huge embarrassment as the impeachment bid will collapse for lack of numbers.
The ten female MCAs include six from Ms Ngilu’s party, three from small political parties and an independent.
The assembly has 18 women MCAs out of the 54 elected and nominated members.
US-based law scholar Makau Mutua waded into the controversy at the weekend, criticising the assembly for seeking to oust the governor.
In a tweet, Prof Mutua urged MCAs to put Kitui people before “politics of personal destruction”.
“Think before you commit irreversible errors. Respect women leadership,” the law don said.
Meanwhile, Speaker George Ndotto has summoned Ms Ngilu to appear before the assembly Wednesday with strict instructions to bring only two legal counsels.
In a letter dated July 9, Mr Ndotto said if the governor chooses to appear in person, only two lawyers will be allowed at the county assembly grounds.
The letter rekindles memories of last week’s scuffle that saw Governor Ngilu’s lawyers assaulted and thrown out of the assembly by orderlies.
Lawyers Martin Oloo, Morris Kimuli and Stanley Kiima had gone to respond to summons issued by the Speaker.
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