Kenya’s triumphant world championship athletes were given a rousing welcome home on Tuesday, with thousands of supporters and the east African nation’s leaders out in force for the homecoming.
Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was crammed with well-wishers as the team returned from Beijing, where they topped the medals table for the first time since the championships started in 1983.
Kenya garnered seven golds, six silvers and three bronze.
There were also two rare individual title wins for Julius Yego in the men’s javelin and Nicholas Bett in the 400m hurdles.
“We are here to welcome our heroes who have stunned the world. You have made us proud,” said deputy president William Ruto, who led the line-up of Kenyan leaders welcoming the team.
He later hosted the athletes for breakfast at his residence.
“Every village, every town and every corner of Kenya is celebrating our win and our success. We are not the biggest country in the world nor the strongest country but we are simply the best,” Ruto said.
“Kenya is not only a cradle of mankind but this is the only place where village girls and village boys, with one effort become champions.”
Kenya’s sports minister, Hassan Wario, said the team’s success was a good pointer towards next year’s Olympics, but said a lot of work still needed to be done to ensure there will be a well-rounded representation.
“This success augurs well for our preparations for Rio. The Olympics will be a different kind of ball game because the Olympics is slightly wider than the world championships,” he said.
“There is fencing and other events which we don’t do very well in. But we have shown we are number one in the world in terms of athletics and we can now improve in other things for the Olympics.”
The athletes rode in posh cars with words “Hot Bed of Medals” to spite the American news network CNN that recently labelled Kenya, “a hot bed of terror”.