Magazine article African Business

Eldorado Eldoret: Eldoret in Kenya Has Produced More Champion Runners Than Any Other Town in the World. These International Stars, in Turn, Have Ploughed Their Winning Back into the Town and Made It the Envy of East Africa. Milan Vesely Reports

Magazine article African Business

Eldorado Eldoret: Eldoret in Kenya Has Produced More Champion Runners Than Any Other Town in the World. These International Stars, in Turn, Have Ploughed Their Winning Back into the Town and Made It the Envy of East Africa. Milan Vesely Reports

Article excerpt

Eldoret, in Kenya, was once just a sleepy backwater town in an upcountry farming community that never hit the headlines-other than in brief business reports about the state of Kenya's wheat or barley crop. But now Eldoret is the heart of a number of financial 'empires'. The new source of wealth has nothing to do with crops or minerals but lies in the power packed limbs of its famed long-distance runners.

Kenya's legendary track and field superstars drive around the once dusty town in flashy Mercedes Benz saloons conversing animatedly into their mobile phones. This is essential technology for keeping in constant touch with their agents around the world as deals, involving large sums of appearance money, are cut.

Eldoret in the centre of Kenya's farming country has produced 99% of the nation's legendary athletes. Kipchoge Keino and Amos Biwott live nearby, as do the famous steeplechasing Cherono brothers: The 3000m world champion, formerly called Stephan Cherono but who is now a citizen of Qatar named Saif Saeed Shaheen; and his bronze medallist brother Abraham Cherono. Also to be seen around town on a regular basis are Christopher Kosgei, gold medallist at the 1999 world championship in Seville, and Patrick Sang, who won 3,000m steeplechase silver medals in the 1991 and 1993 world championships and the 1992 Olympic Games. His neighbours are Isaac Songok, former world junior 1,500m champion and 2000 Sydney Olympics 1,500m bronze medallist Bernard Langat.

Many of these top athletes are now investing in land and businesses in the surrounding countryside and Eldoret has prospered even as other Kenyan towns suffer from the country's recent economic downturn.

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IDEAL PHYSICAL CONDITIONS

Eldoret is situated in the Kenya highlands at an altitude of 2,085m. The lower oxygen levels at this height are ideal for the training of long-distance runners. One can see the results of these favourable conditions in the physiques of the local population with the people's deep chests and long running legs.

These assets have not gone unnoticed by the world's sports management companies. Just outside of Eldoret are a multitude of training camps set up by companies such as the London-based KIM International Management, Dutch-owned Global Sports Management and Italy's FILA. All are determined to sign-up the next up-and-coming local athlete in order to earn the high fees deriving from the athlete's future income. …

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