Kenya and east Africa’s dominance in middle and long distance running events is coming under a huge threat by wealthy Middle-Eastern countries.
Over the past decade, Middle-Eastern countries have poached and fielded Kenyan athletes to bolster their efforts at sporting competitions.
These countries offer less competition to the athletes but more recognition and reward for their efforts as compared to the African ones, facilitating the switch of allegiance.
At the 2016 Rio Olympic games for example, the Qatari men athletics team had only two athletes born in Qatar. Two were Sudanese-born, one in Morocco, one in Nigeria, one in Egypt and the other in Kenya.
Bahrain, on the other hand, had none born in the country. Their athletics men’s team had four athletes born in Kenya, three in Ethiopia, one in Nigeria and the other in Morocco.
Their women’s team also featured three Ethiopian-born athletes, three in Nigeria (one is half-Bahraini) and one in Kenya.
The United Arab Emirates had only two qualifiers to the competition which were from Ethiopia.
Bahrain was the most successful of all the Middle-Eastern countries at the summer games. Many of the country’s athletes got to the final showdowns, with two Kenyan athletes getting medals from the steeplechase and marathon races.
BuzzKenya is looking at 10 Kenyan athletes who have successfully switched allegiance to a middle eastern country.
List Of Kenyan Athletes
Ruth is a long-distance runner and steeplechase specialist who competes for Bahrain but was born in Kenya.
The 20-year-old is the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the 3000m steeplechase. She is also the world record holder of the competition’s time after she smashed the previous record by six seconds at the 2016 IAAF Diamond League.
Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa
Eunice is a Kenyan-born Bahraini long-distance runner who has represented both countries at international competitions.
She made her international debut for Kenya at the inaugural World Youth Championships in 1999 at the age of fifteen. In 2013, she switched allegiance to Bahrain after failing to qualify through Kenya for international competitions.
Eunice Kirwa most recently won silver in the women’s marathon at the Olympics.
Stephen Cherono – Saif Saaeed Shaheen
Stephen Cherono is a Kenyan-born steeplechase runner who now represents Qatar. He is the current world record holder of the 3000m steeplechase and a two-time World Champion in the event.
One of the best Kenyan athletes switched allegiance to Qatar in 2003 before changing his name to Saif Saaeed Shaheen. It is rumored that he was heavily compensated to become a Qatari citizen although he vehemently denies it.
In 2016, Shaheen retired from international competition citing a long-term Achilles tendon injury. He has returned to live in Eldoret, Kenya where he runs a family business.
Gregory Konchellah – Yusuf Saad Kamel
Konchellah is a 1500m and 800m specialist runner representing Bahrain following his switch from Kenya.
The Narok-born athlete who changed his name to Yusuf Saad Kamel is one of a number of Kenyan athletes who have attempted to switch back allegiance to Kenya.
In 2009, he was the world champion at 1500m race in Berlin.
Hosea Kosgei – Aadam Ismaeel Khamis
Kosgei is a long-distance runner representing Bahrain. Following his switch of allegiance, Kosgei started answering Aadam Ismaeel Khamis.
Khamis has won a bronze medal at the 2006 Asian Indoor Athletics Championships for the 3000m race. In that same year, Khamis also took bronze at the World Junior Championships in Beijing in 10,000m.
John Kibet Koech
John Kibet Koech is a 3000m steeplechase specialist runner for Bahrain. He is the elder brother of Isiah Koech, a Kenyan Olympic long distance runner.
John Koech was the winner of the 2015 Asian Athletics Championships 3000m event following his switch in September 2013. In 2014, he was runner-up at the Golden Grand Prix in Japan before having a season’s best of 8:19.99 minutes in Bydgoszcz, which secured him a place in the year’s top-25 lists, and second in the world junior category lists.
David Nyaga – Daham Najim Bashir
Nyaga is a Kenyan-born middle-distance runner now representing Qatar and going by the name of Daham Najim Bashir.
In 2006, Bashir won a silver medal in the 1500m race at the 2006 Asian Indoor Athletics Championships. He went on the better his achievement by taking the gold medal in the same distance at the 2006 Asian Games.
Silas Kirui – Hasan Mahboob
Silas Kirui is a Kenyan-born Bahraini long-distance runner who switched in 2006 and began to go by the name Hasan Mahboob.
Before switching allegiance, Kirui concentrated on road running where he won the Prague Half Marathon in 2005. Under the Bahraini flag, Hasan ran track and also won the 10,000m event at the 2006 Asian Games.
Hasan has won a flurry of medals in different competitions in the 5000m and 10,000m events but has failed to make an impact on the Olympic stage where he finished 18th at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Dennis Kipkurui Sang – Tareq Mubarak Taher
Dennis Kipkurui Sang is a Bahraini middle-distance runner who specializes in the 3000m steeplechase.
Going by Tareq Mubarak Taher now, the Kenyan-born athlete holds the Bahraini national record in his specialty event set on 13 July 2009 at the Athens Grand Prix Tsiklitiria.
John Yego – Belal Mansoor Ali
John Yego now Belal Mansoor Ali is a middle-distance runner representing Bahrain after changing nationality from Kenya.
Ali’s career has been blighted with age cheating allegations following his victory at the 2005 IAAF World Youth Championships in Marrakech, Morocco where he won the 1500m event.