The champion is still alive and active
Cover of Saturday Magazine
Unlike many Kenyan former track stars, Paul Ereng, 32, is still as active in
athletics activities as well as running his personal business at his base in
Eldoret. Having been born and brought up in Cherangani, Ereng still loves rural
life although his first 30 years were divided between Cherangani, Nairobi, the
United States and Europe.
"I am enjoying quiet retirement from the track but am extremely busy farming
trying to secure a future for my family," says Ereng in his fluent, unaccented
English. "I am actually busier than when I was running because I happen to be
my own boss."
Ereng is no stereotype farmer. His taste for sharp attire is as fresh as it
was 11 years ago when he arrived in the centre stage from West Virginia.
He grows seed maize on his 50-acre farm in Kitale, which he bought from his
track earnings. He also leases another 150 acres from other farmers. He sells
his produce to the Kenya Seed Company in Kitale. But he reckons he is just 'small
fry' compared to other people who farm more than 1,000 acres.
His wife Fatima, a former sales executive with the Nation Media Group, quit
and relocated to Eldoret a few years ago to be near Paul. She runs a salon in
Eldoret town as well as bringing up their two children - Jasmine, 2, and Vicky,
Ereng feels he is doing the right thing; forces of nature dictate farming,
like they do in athletics. However, in athletics, fortunes rely too heavily
on the body, which failed him in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. A graduate of
sociology and religion at University of West Virginia, Ereng recalls that he
had to find a balance between sports and education and towards the end paid
more attention to his studies at the expense of athletics. He is looking forward
to returning to college either in Kenya or abroad to pursue a law degree.
He remains vocal and offers voice of reason when need be like during a symposium
organised by the sport governing body, the Kenya Amateur Athletic Association
last year when he criticised and offered solutions.
Ereng spoke of sexual harassment of young girls by fellow athletes and officials,
a subject few people dared broach. Recently, he joined some retired athletes
to call for changes in KAAA management but when some within his ranks called
for an Olympic boycott and others looked for political support, he tactfully
withdrew. "A purely sporting dispute should not be politicised nor A my for
an Olympic boycott,' said Ereng who instead stood for elections in Trans Nzoia
to try and bring athletics development in this area he believes has the potential
of having world beaters in short events.
Ereng who was born in Cherangani, moved to Nairobi after completing his primary
education at Sitamani Primary. He joined Starehe Boys Centre in 1982 and left
in 1985. One year later, while working for the Kenya Posts and Telecommunications
Corporation in Nakuru, he met with Kenyan athlete Micah Boinett who introduced
him to American coach Fred Hardy. Hardy was in Kenya to recruit young athletes
to join American universities. Guided by the three tiers of life taught at Starehe
- physical capability, mental and moral uprightness - Ereng fitted in the American