From the track to disciplined forces

Monday, July 13th, 2020 00:00 |
Mateelong on his way to winning the Africa Championships in Nairobi in 2010 where he beat veteran Ezekiel Kemboi. Photo/PD/RAPHAEL MUNGE

Roy Lumbe @lumbe_roy

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, wrote accomplished American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson.

This idiom aptly befits Kenya’s retired long distance runner Richard Kipkemboi Mateelong’ who went through drills as a police officer and then drifted to athletics before rejoining the disciplined forces where he is now serving in the plum position of Officer Commanding Station in Subukia, Nakuru.

Mateelong’ is one of several athletes in the country to make it big in athletics despite hailing from languid and chilly locations in the Rift Valley.

  And the mere mention of Mateelong’ in Subukia and its environs evokes memories of when the speed-star ruled the Olympics and Commonwealth Games landscape like a colossus.

Being part of a golden Kenyan dynasty in the athletic field, Mateelong’ is a name that cannot go unnoticed, at least in the eyes of the locals.

A darling of many, Mateelong’ basks in the glory of the medals he stashed in his cabinet while representing the country in Africa and world championships.

Donning Kenyan colours

Being a police officer, Mateelong’ says carrying the Kenyan flag internationally was a big privilege, adding that he wallowed in pride at donning Kenyan colours in international meetings and especially when the country’s national anthem was being belted out after completing the races.

Mateelong at his office at the Subukia Police Station where he is serving as the Officer Commanding Police Station (OCS) during the interview last week. PD/RAPHAEL MUNGE

Mateelong’, who started his career in field events, reminisces how he proudly sang the vocals of the national anthem every time he made a podium finish.

His first competitive race was in Congo Brazzaville in the 2004 African Championships where he won silver before he earned qualification for the IAAF World Athletics finals in succession from 2004 to 2007 winning a silver medal in the four year duration.

Mateelong’ made his breakthrough in the world of athletics at the 2007 Osaka World Championship where he won bronze in 3,000m steeplechase and repeated the feat at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.

In 2009, he won a silver medal at Berlin World Championships before leading Kenya to a 1-2-3 medal sweep at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games with compatriots Ezekiel Cheboi and Brimin Kiprop trailing him.

He regrets that a recurrent knee injury on his right knee cut short his career noting that he would have loved to participate in marathon later on but this was not possible and he subsequently retired in 2014.

“I struggled with injuries which made me miss out most part of the selection process and I finally quit the sport.

It was a painful decision since I felt I had much more to offer to my country,” said Mateelong’.

The same year, Mateelong’ was still based at Kiganjo National Police Training College as an instructor before he was transferred to National Police Senior Staff College in Loresho in 2015.

He would later be posted to Nakuru in 2019 in charge of sports in Rift Valley region after which he was deployed as an OCS at Kirengero Police Station.

After retiring from the field, Chief Inspector Mateelong’ who won bronze at the 2008 Olympics Games in Beijing and is now fully concentrating on his police work as an OCS, his accomplishments are written in stone, never to be erased.

Mateelong inspects officers at the station before they leave for duty. Photo/PD/ RAPHAEL MUNGE

At his work station, you are welcomed with a buzz of organized activities as he discharges instructions to officers at the station on how to maintain law and order especially during the pandemic.

His administrative skills have endeared him to junior officers who are excited to have him as their Ward Police Commander.

Mateelong’ says handling crime is not a new thing in his new venture as he was first trained as an officer before specialising in athletics. 

Athletic career blossomed

“Sports in the service have really made me appreciate the steps I have made today and I guess that is why I’m in charge of Kirengero Station due to the sport,” said Mateelong’. 

Born on October 14, 1983 in Olposimoru in Narok County, Mateelong’ went at Olposimoru Primary School before joining Moi Amalo Secondary School where his athletic career blossomed in 1998 after which he joined the police service. 

He said his role models in the track events during his hey days were former world 3,000 metres steeplechase champions Moses Kiptanui and Bernard Barmasai as well as  Kipkurui Misoi who excelled in the same distance at Grand Prixes.

 “In primary school I used to play football and had little interest in athletics but on joining high school, things changed.

The long distance from home to school was also good riddance to me since I used to cover at least six kilometers daily while running,” he added. 

The former Commonwealth champion has a word with his boss Subukia Sub-County Police Commander Patricia Nasio. Photo/PD/ RAPHAEL MUNGE

At the Police Service, Mateelong’ got the opportunity to fully focus on athletics saying he got an opportunity to represent the force at all levels before being included in the national team. 

Mateelong’ is a crusader of discipline which he describes as an important virtue if one is to succeed in athletics and indeed all other disciplines.

He also had words of caution to athletes to go easy especially in handling the fame that comes with the sport and at the same time advised them to keep off doping which is a career killer. 

“To succeed in this field there is no short cut, you have to remain committed and disciplined to succeed and there are no two ways about it. You should also try to win clean and avoid performance enhancing drugs,”said Mateelong’ in finality.

He adds:  “To my friends and fans who were wondering where I went after retiring from athletics, I am still in the Police Service where I’m balancing my work with that of an athletics coach,” said Mateelong. 

Subukia Sub-County Police Commander Patricia Nasio said sports in the service have been a catalyst of self-discipline among officers and has been encouraging upcoming athletes in the Service to pursue the field and realize their talents to the fullest.

 Nasio noted that sports also relieves stress that comes along with the job and also urged aspiring athletes to try and emulate Mateelong who brought pride not only in Subukia but also the whole the country during his active days.

Easy to work

Nasio had words of praise to Mateelong and described him as easy to work with saying that he discharges his duties with diligence the same way he was serving Kenya as an athlete.

 “Sports has been ranked among the best stress relievers and this is a good for the officers. In Subukia law enforcement, we work as a team,” said Nasio while congratulating other world beaters within the police force.

The National Police Service is the home of champions including world renowned athletes such as ASP Abel Kirui, C.I Vivian Cheruiyot, C.I David Rudisha, C.I Ezekiel Kemboi, IP Elijah Manangoi, S/Sgt Julius Yego, S/Sgt Eunice Sum, Sgt Hyvin Kiyeng, among others.

More on News