Tergat's changed fortunes

2013-01-15 11:28:16 GMT2013-01-15 19:28:16(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

By Ben Ochieng

NAIROBI, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- After blazing the athletics trail in top flight style for close to a decade, Paul Tergat, one of Kenya's most decorated athletes, is currently reaping the rewards of his hard won achievements.

Last December, the former five-time world cross country champion and world marathon record holder was nominated by the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) to succeed retiring Kipchoge Keino as an International Olympic Committee (IOC) honorary member.

It was also during that period that he staged a successful 9th edition of his brain child; the Sports Personality of the Year Awards (SOYA) ceremony as well as landing an appointment from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as Ambassador for 2013 Cross Country Championships scheduled for March in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

As ambassador for the March games, Tergat will promote the upcoming championships and the association itself through promotional appearances at selected events and motivational speeches.

He will also field media interviews, among other ceremonial duties such as medal presentations.

Upon receiving the good news from Monaco, Tergat remarked that he felt honored with the appointment, which he said was not only for him but also his country as a global long distance giant.

"It is now important more than ever that our athletes work extra hard to ensure that Kenya returns with a big haul of medals from the championships as a way of reciprocating this gesture," he remarked in a dispatch during the December vacation through his personal assistant Simon Chebon.

Tergat's nomination by NOCK for a slot at the IOC follows the expiry of Keino's term of office that ended in 2010 which was occasioned by rules concerning age limits and in the process clearing the way for Tergat's second attempt at seeking election to join the exclusive club of the IOC four years after his failed attempt.

In 2008, Tergat was among 31 high profile athletes who put their names forward for the four available slots in the IOC. However, as an active runner and with Keino still a member, he failed in his bid.

But with the full backing of NOCK and the 53-member strong Africa Nations Olympic Committee (ANOCA), he is widely expected to capture the seat during the next IOC session scheduled for September in Buenos Aires.

Tergat has also been championing the school feeding program as the Ambassador Against Hunger of the World Food Program since 2004 as well as being the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Champion, an appointment that was effected by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in 2010 and runs till 2015.

His friend Paul Too remarks that the retired athlete is now on the receiving end of his hard work and discipline and called upon young athletes to excel in their career if they wanted to receive such accolades in retirement.

"What Tergat is reaping is the product of hard work and restraint that saw him stay in active athletics for over a decade at a time when some runners became only one-hit stars."

Fondly referred to as "gentleman of athletics", Tergat is remembered for winning a record five straight world cross country's senior men's 12km title, the jewel of cross country running during his hey day between 1995 and 1999.

This put him in a legendary status in so far as cross country running is concerned, he has also been at the forefront advocating for the cross country to be included as an event at the Olympic Games.

On track, Tergat is best remembered for his epic duels with Ethiopia's Haile Gebreselassie who on two occasions denied him an Olympic gold in the 10,000m, though the two remain very close friends.

He also promotes a number of road races and athletes' seminars across Kenya and assists the needy in society through his foundation, the Paul Tergat Foundation.

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