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‘From herdsboy to stardom’ – Daniel Wanyonyi recounts fight against poverty to global headlines

Wednesday, December 13th, 2023 16:49 | By
World 800m silver medallist Emmanuel Wanyaonyi. PHOTO/World Athletics
World 800m silver medallist Emmanuel Wanyaonyi. PHOTO/World Athletics

World 800m silver medallist Emmanuel Wanyaonyi has explained his arduous fight against childhood poverty to reach the high podium in global competitions.

Wanyonyi grew up in Saboti, Tranz-Nzoia County, and given that his family was not well-off, he struggled in every aspect of life.

He dropped out of school at the age of 10 and had to get hired as a herdsboy as a means of survival, not out of choice but out of adversity.

His life took an unlikely turn in 2018 when his father died and his mother left with his siblings, leaving Wanyonyi under the care of his aunt.

Despite all these challenges, the youngster remained hopeful of one day becoming a global star.

“I didn’t come from a family of runners, but I knew that I could make it as a runner if I trained and pushed hard. I had to do it for my family.

“I am the fifth of 11 children, and most of them never went to school. "I was the only one who was in school, and I saw running as an opportunity out of our misery," Wanyonyi told Olympics.com.

Career development

Fast forward: the emerging talent has conquered his childhood poverty.

During his debut at the 2021 World U20 Championships, Wanyonyi produced an astonishing 1:43:76 run in the final in Nairobi, which was way faster than compatriot Emmanuel Korir’s 1:45:06 winning time in the Tokyo Olympics final.

“I never imagined I would be competing at the world level at that early stage of my running career. I’d just started running nationally that year. I came from nowhere to win,” Wanyonyi added.

With his breakthrough at 19, naturally, Wanyonyi assumed parental responsibilities in the family.

“After running the World U20, I went and looked for my mum, got her a piece of land, and built her a home where she now lives with my younger siblings.

"Also, considering most of my siblings didn’t go to school, I focused on ensuring the younger ones got an education. They are worth every pain and suffering from my training," he concluded.

Emmanuel Wanyonyi and Jacob Krop in World Athletics Championship action in Budapest, China. PHOTO/World Athletics.
Emmanuel Wanyonyi and Jacob Krop in World Athletics Championship action in Budapest, China. PHOTO/World Athletics.

Flashback

In Eugene, during the 2022 World Championship, he finished fourth behind Korir.

At the World Cross Country Championships in February this year, Wanyonyi was part of Kenya’s gold medal-winning team. He was a silver medallist at the Budapest Championship in August and is a four-time winner in the Diamond League series.

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