In the 10,000m at the Tokyo Olympics, famous for the American Billy Mills' unexpected victory, an almost insignificant thing happened which would be unimaginable decades later. Look at the race 2m35s into this video.
For a brief second, we see the front runners, Billy Mills and Ron Clarke, lap what appears to be a black man. This man turns out to be Naftali Temu, and he was a Kenyan. 4 years later, in Mexico City, he became Kenya's first Olympic gold medalist.
Think about it for a minute. There was a time when Kenyans got absolutely hammered at LONG DISTANCE running. And damn! How is that possible? It turns out that no one turns up and sweeps the podium. No matter how talented or gifted, even the best need to pay their dues.
Kenyans first went to the Olympics in 1956, and it took them 12 years of losing before they turned up at Mexico City in 1968, and absolutely lit the track up. The world remembers the hero of Mexico, Kipchoge Keino, and rightly so. What we forget is the decade of anonymous suffering on cruel tracks around the world as others basked in their moment in the sun.
Today, Kenyan Riders Downunder are in Australia, learning the craft of racing in quiet races where the only people who turn up are family and friends. Jousting with Aussies, and getting hammered sometimes, is precisely where we want to be now.
Yesterday, in the Tour of East Gippsland, our man Suleiman Kangangi, ably helped earlier by our Aussie team mates, Brad Soden and Liam Hill, stayed away in a 3-man breakaway for 107.2km of a 108km race. For us, it was a victory. To show that we belong in a race with men who choose to take it by the scruff of its neck.
As Suleiman told me, 'The likes of Gichora when they see me do such a thing they will be brave also to try from far when necessary. I keep telling them we have to be brave but it starts with me ... and bravery pays in cycling.' We are here to pay our dues on the quiet roads of Australia. Because we know how our running brothers did it.