NAIROBI - Kenya's top marathon runners, led by three-time Boston Marathon champion Robert Cheruiyot, snubbed a government award ceremony on Wednesday in reaction to a statement by their sports minister over their earnings.
Kenyan sports minister Maina Kamanda had said the runners, who have dominated the big city marathon races in the past month, did not deserve to be given more money by the government but only the recognition, considering they were already winning bigger prize money overseas.
"Even if the government wishes not to recognise us, we can as well refuse to represent the country in the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games," Cheruiyot told reporters at another award presentation ceremony on Tuesday.
"Other countries are doing it and I don't know why Kenya is an exception."
The invited athletes - winners in Boston, London, Madrid, Paris, Rotterdam and Salt Lake City - did not attend the lunch award ceremony where Kamanda presented cash prizes worth 2,3 million shillings (about R239 000) to the world cross-country winning team and their coaches.
Kamanda played down the fiasco, saying the government had already shown recognition by sending congratulatory messages to the athletes after their achievements.
"We do recognise these athletes and we are telling them not to shout. Even now we have bought a token of recognition for them," said Kamanda in reference to a microwave that was bought for each of the champions. "They are after recognition, which we have done as a government. With time they can even get a head of state recognition."
Athletics Kenya (AK) chairman Isaiah Kiplagat said the marathon runners will only be given cash prizes if they win medals at the World Championships and the Olympic Games. - Sapa-AFP