NAIROBI (The Nation, Nov. 4, 2000) World sport
doesn’t seem to have enough of comedies. At
the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Kenya
entered a cross country skiing team of Philip
Bitok and Paul Boit, who struggled to the finish
ages after the race had been won. At this year’s Sydney Games, Guinea Bissau
swimmer Eric Mossoumba could hardly swim and
would end up with the unenviable distinction of
clocking the all-time slowest time in the pool.
Don’t forget that tropical Jamaica at one point
entered a bobsled team at the winter Olympics.
At the recent cycling World Championships in
France, it was Kenyan David Kinja’s turn to play
the comic. But give credit where it is due. Kinja
is headed places if his 41st-place ranking at the
France event is anything to go by.
The 28-year-old cyclist arrived at the Charles de
Gaulle airport with no idea where the
championship would run.
Complete with a borrowed bicycle, Kinja
managed to complete the time trial in a Kenyan
record of one hour, four minutes.
The time trial is a competition in which cyclists
race against not other competitors but time. In
this year’s world championship, the time limit
was one hour, five minutes.
Kinja was lucky to get some financial backing
(sh102,000) from the Population Services
The cyclist’s story started with a rude awakening
when he arrived in Paris to find himself stranded.
The organizers of the world championships were
not expecting him that day.
He had to take refuge at a Red Cross camp,
hoping for the best. But he denies that he was
stranded in France.
“I was assisted by the Red Cross but it was not
an ordeal as a section of the press reports put it
here,” Kinja said. “The Red Cross has a contract
with some airports like the Charles De Gaulle in
Paris to assist stranded travelers. I paid for the
night’s accommodation though.”
The cyclist went into the competition quite
While training in Nairobi and its environs around
Ngong, Mombasa and Naivasha Roads, Kinja had
been conditioning himself for the road race in the
World Championship but when he landed there,
he discovered he could not participate in the
road race as only teams could enter for the road
race after accumulating a number of points in
Thus Kinja had to settle for the time trial with
poor quality shoes, no bicycle and bad weather in
addition to his inexperience all working against
his only plus; a positive spirit.
At the end of the time trial, Kinja was sharing
the podium with the winners of the time trial
championships given that he is black, was
unexpected to perform within the allowed time
and had never been to such a championship
“The media was overwhelmed by my
performance. I did more interviews there than I
had done in all my life despite of my language
handicap (he does not speak French).”
Like Moussamba who found fame for swimming
the slowest time in the Sydney Olympics, Kinja
naturally attracted the unprecedented media
The weekly magazine, Plouay 2000, sought to
know how Kinja had come seen and conquered
while Quest-France paid glowing tribute to the
Kenyan for working so hard against all the odds.
Amateur Cycling Association of Kenya (ACAK)
Chairman Julius Mwangi commends Kinja,
considering that it was in a time trial not a road
race in which he was involved.
The Quest France magazine says Kinja was
started in the second position because they
thought he was “a tortoise but he turned out to
be a rabbit.”
Kinja, who comes from Kikuyu, has been cycling
competitively for only five years, which is nothing
compared to the accomplished cyclists who
have been at it for 10 to 15 years by the time
they are Kinja’s age.
He says of cycling: “It is an expensive sport. It is
not like running where you just get up, put on
spikes and away you go. For Kenyan cyclists to
make a mark in the world, they must be exposed
at high level and this costs money.”
Kinja was assisted by the World Championships
organizers with a Look bicycle and had trouble
getting used to the bike.
“You need to train with the bike to get used to it
before you can cycle well in a competition,” Kinja
said. “I did not have that time so I went real
slow and in any case the hills and valleys are so
steep I had to be careful.”
Kinja says he is taking a break as he waits to
defend the PSI Trust Cycle competition which
takes place on World Aids Day on Dec. 1 in
Nairobi. Kinja has won the competition three
times in a row.
Kinja has scored a first in representing Kenya in
the World Cycling championships as a result he
has attracted a number of cycling clubs and
companies that have promised him a possible
participation in the cycling Grand Prix in Europe.
In an interview, Kinja says he was questioned at
length over fears that he might have used drugs
to help enhance his performance.
“I told them what I know, that I do know about
drugs but I have never taken any.”
Kinja says many in France were surprised to see
a Kenyan “not running but cycling as they are of
the opinion that Kenya only produces world
beating athletes and nothing else!”
Fuck the sport! Respect the man!
These guys are our true heroes.Positive spirit and dedication despite numerous challenges