Kenyan Amabassador joins marathon professionals in visit to Hawaii’s oldest girls school
Categories: Elite Athletes
Kenya’s ambassador to the United States says he wanted to come to Honolulu because he Honolulu Marathon is where Kenyan runners first established themselves as world champions.
“In the Kenyan runners, you are seeing the best in the world,” Ambassador Elkanah Odembo told students at a Honolulu school. “I’m very proud of our marathoners. They are our ambassadors.”
Kenyans Jimmy Muindi, a six-time Honolulu champion, and Wilson Kipsang, one of the fastest marathoners in the world and the favorite for Sunday’s Honolulu race, accompanied Odembo to the school near downtown Honolulu. Kipsang won the 2012 London Marathon and the brone medal in the London Olympics marathon.
Odembo said he also wanted to come to Honolulu because he was with Kipsang in New York in November but didn’t get to see him run because of the cancellation of the New York City Marathon. “When I heard that Wilson was coming to Honolulu, I told my secretary to see if she could get me to Honolulu also,” he told students at St. Andrews Priory, Hawaii’s oldest girls’ school. “But I didn’t know Honolulu was so far.”
Another reason for wanting to come to Honolulu, Odembo said, is because of its ties to President Obama, who was born and raised in Honolulu and had a Kenyan father. “Kenya also is very proud of him,” he said of the American president. After he was appointed ambassador two years ago, he went to the White House to present his credentials. “When we walked into the Oval Office, Obama greeted us in Swahili,” Odembo said. “He was so delightful. It was a very special moment.”
Upon arriving at the school, the ambassador and the runners passed through a line of second-graders waving Kenyan flags. After entering the gymnasium, the school band played the Kenyan national anthem, followed by an African song and dance by second-graders who are studying Africa as part of their curriculum.
Standing between the two runners for a question-and-answer session, Odembo said, “This is a morning for champions, I’m just a gate-crasher. ” When the two runners told the students of the numerous marathons they have completed, Odembo proudly added that he ran the Boston Marathon in 1979. Kipsong urged the students to “study hard and do your best.”
When the band concluded the session with a Kenyan marching song, the ambassador and runners posed for photographs and signed autographs. The three then retreated to a second-grade classroom where they were entertained with Hawaiian hula dances. When the girls asked questions about Africa, Odembo asked them what they had learnred about Africa. Most of the answers involved animals. When the ambassador asked how many wanted to visit Africa, nearly 20 girls raised their hands.