Riches to rags: Former elite Kenyan athletes living in squalor

Raymond Yator, a former athlete who established a new junior world record in 2000.

NAIROBI: At the peak of his career, he was one of the most talented athletes; best remembered for breaking the World Junior 3,000m steeplechase record.

But today, Raymond Yator lives a destitute life.

His once superb sprint record now only works to his advantage whenever police raid unlicensed, illicit alcohol dens.

“Whenever police raid our village, I am always the last man to leave. I am very confident no policeman can catch me once I start running,” he says.

Wrong company

His younger brother, Robert Yator, blames wrong company for his brother’s predicament.

“My brother came home with a good amount of money and he made a couple of investments but his peers introduced him to alcohol and this now has a firm grip on him. Steadily, he started abandoning his training and resorted to selling off his property to buy alcohol,” he recalls.

Yator’s lifestyle exemplifies the sad ‘riches to rags’ story that is common among former elite athletes. One that Antony Kiprono, Charles Kwambai and Peter Kosgei can easily relate to.

Kiprono and Kwambai, made their name when they represented Kenya in the World Cross-Country Championships and won lucrative races abroad. Kosgei won the 2014 Standard Chartered Marathon. Today, Kiprono leads a shattered life as a single man – having separated from his wife 10 years ago.

Drinking alcohol

“I do manual jobs here and there to earn Sh200 or Sh300 so I can buy a tin (one kilogramme) of maize and other household items. It is terrible, I tell you. Life has been very hard and I decided to drink alcohol to relieve the stress,” he says.

Life after running has also not been rosy for Kwambai who says an injury ruled him out of competitions after a brief stint at the international level.

“I stopped running after I got a hamstring injury. I am, however, ready to stop drinking alcohol and train well if I get a sponsor,” says the father of six.

For Kosgei, who comes from Chemwabul village that’s home to world track stars, alcoholism is what put an end to his running career.

“I made at least Sh5 million in athletics. But I have nothing now except a half acre piece of land I bought in Kerio Valley. I think I need to get back to serious athletics to escape poverty,” says the man who now lives in a three roomed iron sheet-walled house in his parents’ farm.

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