Governor Alex Tolgos on Tuesday led in unveiled Iten town’s World Athletics Heritage Plaque awarded to the Elgeyo Marakwet County capital by the world athletics governing body for it’s long-standing contribution to the sport.
According to World Athletics, the World Athletics Heritage Plaque is a location-based recognition which highlights, celebrates and links together iconic and historic athletics competitions, careers, performances, cities, venues, landmarks and culture around the world.
“The Plaque is awarded for “an outstanding contribution to the worldwide history and development of the sport of track and field athletics and of out of stadia athletics disciplines such as cross country, mountain, road, trail and ultra-running, and race walking,” World Athletics explains.
There is no monetary consideration that comes with the plaques that are divided into five general categories “offering the possibility to honour locations across our multi-layered global sport.”
These five categories are City (resurrects the previous ‘IAAF World Athletics City Award’ which recognised cities which have been hosts of multiple global athletics competitions); Competition (Events, meetings and races), Legend (Posthumous recognition of athletes, coaches, officials), Landmark (Stadiums, monuments, tracks, race routes, training grounds and courses) and Culture (Art, film and publications).
Iten was awarded in the landmark category.
Standing at 2,400 metres above sea level, Iten has been celebrates as one of the best training locations for distance runners and has produced a long list of world beaters in track and field.
“Iten, a town of 42,000 people in Elgeyo-Marakwet County of Kenya, is known as the ‘Home of Champions’. St. Patrick’s High School is located in Iten and over the last 30 years has produced a long list of world-class long distance athletes,” the World Athletics citation read.
“Alumni include Ibrahim Hussein, winner of three Boston Marathons and one New York City Marathon; Peter Rono, 1988 Olympic 1500m gold medallist, Wilson Boit Kipketer, 1997 world 3,000m Steeplechase champion, Matthew Birir, 1992 Olympic 3000m Steeplechase champion and David Rudisha, 2012 Olympic 800m gold medallist and world record holder.
“Many athletes, including Rudisha, and world champions Edna Kiplagat, Florence Kiplagat, Lornah Kiplagat, Linet Masai, and Mary Keitany, have made homes in Iten.”
During the World Relays in Yokohama, Japan last year, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe handed the Rift Valley town the “IAAF Heritage Plaque” which celebrates towns important to global athletics history.
The head of WA Heritage Department Chris Turner termed the recognition as a thing that is in the heart and soul of athletics.
“The fact that so many athletes come from one place and train in one area with many athletes having gone to Iten and live, a place where athletes go, a home of champions – is one of the reasons why we recognized Iten with this plaque,” said Turner then.
Iten, along with all other recipients of the Heritage Plaque have the right to use the World Athletics Heritage Site Badge which is a recognition which comes with the award of the World Athletics Heritage Plaque.
They have the right to display the badge on platforms (websites, social media) and printed publications, to promote the award of the plaque.
The plaque was sent to Athletics Kenya who in turn handed it over to the Elgeyo Marakwet County Government at a ceremony held at the governor’s office in the presence of North Rift Athletics Kenya chairman Jackson Pkemoi among other officials.
Governor Tolgos said the county has done a lot in positioning it as a global athletics destination which will also attract more international athletes for training in the region.
He said the county received Sh400 million from the British Government to establish sporting facilities and other economic initiatives in Iten that would attract more local and foreign sports enthusiasts and investors keen on athletics and other sports.
“We have developed a plan that will be launched alongside the plaque and other facilities in the municipality. We have an intention of setting up a sports park and a hub for athletes to reside and train in within the town as one way of honoring the good work they have been doing in athletics,” said the governor.
Elgeyo Marakwet County executive in charge of sports Anita Kimwatan said the county is getting ready for an official launch of the recognition plaque on December 3.
“The county has a special urban development plan for Iten town that will be launched on the same day. This plague has arrived at the most opportune time when the county is planning to improve the township,” said Kimwatan.
Speaking to Nation Sport at his home in Kilgoris, world 800 metres record holder David Rudisha, who started his elite career in Iten, said the town being recognised as a global heritage site is an honor to all the former athletes and the community at large who have always supported the sport.
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“It was a great honor to see the town awarded because of athletes who trained in the area since the early years of 60’s. This is a good move and as athletes we should continue raising the flag high in various events across the world,” said Rudisha.
He also said that the plaque will honor dedicated coaches in the region who have been working tirelessly to make sure athletes perform well including breaking the world records time in various races.
“We have dedicated team of coaches who are always doing their best to make sure that with the little resources available, athletes perform well and carry the flag high.
“The athletes should now work hard and avoid going the drugs way which will ruin the good name which was brought by our athletics fathers,” added Rudisha.
Each year, World Athletics will periodically award plaques taking advantage of appropriate moments in the international athletics calendar to make those announcements.