Visually impaired athlete, Henry Wanyoike, laced up a series of victories starting in 2000 to join the list of Kenya’s most celebrated sporting heroes.
When Wanyoike raced to victory in the Hong Kong International half marathon last February, it was a signal that disability is not a hindarance to achieving his dream. A record in the event was enough to make the world sit and take notice, as he baecme an instant celebrity.
When Wanyoike was feted alongside other sportsmen and women at last year’s Sports Personality of the Year(SOYA) award, the nation stood up to applaud an athlete who defied all odds to rise to stardom.
His exploits started a little over four years ago when as unknown runner depending on a guide, he won the 5,000m title at the Sydney Paralympics. His winning time of 15:23.34sec was five seconds outside the world mark set by a Briton, Bob Mathews, a few years earlier.
The road to success then picked momentum as Wanyoike recorded his first world mark in the 10,000m in Lille, France, two years later. His time at 32:34.3 eclipsed the world mark set by Mexican A.Guerroro in 1996.
Wanyoike was at it again when he added a new feather to his cap by winning gold in 5,000m at the All African Games in Nigeria in 2003.
The Sydney showbiz and the continental games seemed to have prepared Wanyoike for bigger things. When the Athens Olympics came in 2004, he was indeed ready and motivated to reach the top. His sporting career to a new turn as he bagged two gold medals in the 5,000m and 10,000m.
A world record of 31:37.23 was the icing on the cake for the amn who seemed set on conquering the world. It was not long before he added the 5,000m mark to his collection with a time of 15:17.0sec.
Records continued to tumble in Wanyoike’s wake as he turned 2004 into a personal year again. One of those moments was in the Boston Marathon where he entered the record books with the new mark of 2:33.15.
Success on the international scene continued as he added the 1,500m to his collection wrapping up the season as the country’s beat sportsman for 2004.
Wanyoike, 30, was born and brought up in Kahuho Village of Kikuyu Division in Kiambu District where he developed the passion for sports. He schooled at Kahuho Uhuru Secondary School where he was a key member of the athletics team. It was after school that he started losing his eyesight.
He joined the Machakos Institute for the Blind where he specialized in knitting. He never gave up athletics as he realized he could still run – but with a guide.
The urge to re-write the record books ensured that he turned to friends who took him through his training lessons.
One of them Joseph Kibunja has ensured that Wanyoike has continued on the road to glory as the world takes notice of this father of one.