Simbu’s 93m/- gain in Mumbai race says it all


IN a simple language, Tanzanian marathoner, Alphonce Simbu, has convinced the youth countrywide that excelling in sports pays handsomely.

In just 2 hours, 09 minutes and 32 seconds, the Tanzanian runner racked in USD 42,000 equivalent to 93 million in local currency.

Simbu, who won the country attention after finishing fifth in a gruelling Rio Olympics, was awarded the money as a cash prize for winning Mumbai Marathon in India over the weekend.

His victory revived the faded hopes among the youth and informed Tanzanians that athletics, once declined, is slowly regaining its lost stronghold.

His victory and the financial gains were well received in Arusha, the country’s breeding ground of the best athletes.

Simbu’s financial gain might be a motivational new thing for the Tanzanian youth today, but it was vey common in the country during the glorious days of the country’s legendary runners such as Filbert Bayi, Juma Ikangaa, Suleiman Nyambui, John Yuda and Zebedayo Bayo.

One of the widely reported during the reign of the past legends was the Mercedes Benz worth USD 50,000 Juma Ikangaa.

Though it has not been established yet how much other prominent runners gained through athletics, the package being offered to the winners of the global events such as Diamond League, Golden or Grand Prix is extremely bigger than USD 42,000 Simbu gained in the sub international events like Mumbai Marathon.

Previously it has been USD 50,000 for winners, 30,000 for runners up and the package goes down to the 10th finishers of both men and women categories.

Tanzania’s neighbour, Kenya leads the East African region in reaping huge foreign income through athletics, especially long distance races and marathons.

Most often, Kenya, whose athletes win almost every event staged world wide on Sundays, can earn at least USD 150,000 weekly through its athletes who normally win in 1-2-3 finishing most often.

For the residents of Dar es Salaam or any youth outside Arusha, it is difficult to see the benefits of athletics, since the sport is almost forgotten there.

The impact of the athletics money can be easily noticed in various rural and urban areas of Arusha and Manyara, the home regions of most of the successful Tanzanian athletes.

However, the inspirational feat of Simbu doesn’t mean that every inspired youth should now opt for long and tough races like 42km marathons.

Simbu spent over two hours to win the jackpot, but if he were a sprinter like Ussain Bolt, he could easily pocket the same amount within 10 seconds!.

There are many shorter and simpler races to start with and defy the tradition that restricts Tanzania into longer races starting from 1500m, 3000 steeplechase, 5000m, 10,000 and the 42km or 21km marathons.

But it has been very difficult to convince Tanzanian runners to try other disciplines.

As Coach Iddi Mhunzi once advised, the youth should start with short distance races to become medal and cash winning runners.

But the best lesson which Tanzanian sports fraternity need to learn is how our neighbour Kenya grooms the best runners.

It has been said most often that talented athletes in long races have always emerged from East Africa, but no other nation on the continent has been able to match Kenya’s consistent ability to produce champions year in, year out.

Theories abound as to why this is the case. Some argue genetics is a factor.

Others say a lot of runners hail from the Rift Valley, a part of the country with high altitude, and this gives the athletes an edge.

But, Tanzania’s athletics legend Filbert Bayi always thinks it is a good system that scouts and grooms athletes from primary and secondary schools all the way to clubs that pays.

The British World and Olympic champion Mo Farah tells the story of the dedication he witnessed when, as a mediocre runner, he decided to train with Kenyan athletes.

He had seen them just eat, sleep and train and nothing else was a big shock for him.

This level of professionalism and intense hard work is what distinguishes Kenyan athletes from their competitors.

Why should Tanzania learn from Kenya, is their advanced level of professionalism in the sport. Most runners are already professionals.

So when the international competitions come around, they are going to do well, because they are already doing well in their careers.

While Tanzanian schools and colleges shrugged off allegiances with athletics, Kenyan schools encourage athletics, and the economic potential that young athletes see in the sport.

The experts in athletics claim that encourages professionalism hence every runner who represents Kenya in global event can run and compete as professional.

The increase in number of English Medium schools, universities and colleges, has yet to benefit athletics in Tanzania at the moment.

The increase in number of higher learning institutions seemed to benefit many sports like basketball and football

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