Monday, July 25, 2005
Last week I had a chance to interview John Ngugi a man who won the World Cross Country title five times and an olympic gold medalist. Ngugi is in a sorry state. Those who remember Ngugi during the Seoul Olympics recall how the entire stadium was thrilled as Ngugi snatched a lead on 5,000 m from start to finish.
He tells me that the people who were out to finish him did it because he was an elite runner and came from the wrong tribe. I have no way of verifying this and have to put it here for records. He says it is the same "jealous" officials of Kenya Amateur Athletics Association who decided to bring him down because they had a war with a stable led by John Bicourt, a former British steeplechaser-turned-agent.
Ngugi claims that the KAAA officials knowing his handicap in speaking English sent some two officials from IAAF as he prepared to defend his title to demand an out of field doping test. Naively Ngugi who is a standard seven drop out told them to wait and that was his waterloo.
He told me he was also accused of joining the opposition politics since he was an influential person in Nyahururu town where he had built a commercial building which he aptly named Boston House, after Boston Marathon. Because of that NSSF (National Social Security Fund) who were his tenants were asked to leave the building. His business was attacked many times by armed robbers and his transport business was also targeted.
Ngugi's story may be true given Kenya's mixture of business and politics. But the man had invested well. Today Ngugi is a pauper after commercial banks raided his empire during the Moi days and as he told me he is in Nairobi running away from creditors.
He has also been thrown out of the army where he worked without pension and is now planning to sue the army for wrongful dismissal. Ngugi is now born-again and the pain of losing his lifelihood is to much to bear. I will talk to him again and see the progress but he is a good man who has maintained himself - although he admitted that he was one time too frustrated he started drinking a lot.
But Ngugi is still a gentleman, but very shy. He is still looking for courage to meet his other colleagues and I am told he might do so at the Mombasa marathon where Paul Tergat is a key organiser. At the moment he is looking for something to do with all his experience at least to make ends meet...