Veteran Katonon to turn back clock
A thrilling two-day Africa Masters trials came to an end on Saturday at the Nyayo National Stadium with some superb display from Kenyan veteran athletes.
Among the standout performers was Jacob Katonon, Kenya’s 1996 Olympic triple jumper, who is among some 70 athletes who were named in Team Kenya for the 2021 Africa Masters Athletics Championships (AFMA) set for November 22-27 at the same venue.
Katonon, the unsung hero, holds two Kenyan records that have stood for over two decades now.
These records are in long jump (8.12m) and triple jump (17.12m), and Katonon is quick to add that the records could have been three had two-time African champion Mathew Sawe not improved his height of 2.24m in high jump.
“The high jump record stood for a while and I have to give credit to Sawe for becoming the new record holder recently. His achievement is a big challenge to athletes of his generation and upcoming ones,” Katonon told People Sport.
He admits he has not been training at all but nonetheless managed a 5.02m distance in long jump, and the veteran believes he can do better and win gold during the Africa Masters event.
“I know what I am capable of doing. I can still jump further with good training and focus,” he adds.
Seven years ago his attempt to return to competition was curtailed by an injury he had picked while at his prime, which eventually ended his dream of lowering his records.
His aspirations were cut short in 1996 after returning from the Olympic Games. While in training, he had landed wrongly on his feet and cracked his bone.
It was a serious injury that laid him off completely and took more than eight years to get healed.
Sawe says his career began in 1992 when began to shine and got sponsorships to go and improve his jumping skills out of the country.
“I used to train mostly in Mauritius and Senegal,” he recalls.
He adds that his training bore good fruits and he was able to represent the country in the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada, the 1995 World Championships in Sweden and the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia.
He says the famous Brother Colm O’Connell noticed his talent in the 200m and 100m sprints and in the jumps and enrolled him as a student at St Patrick’s school in Iten.
Brother Colm then encouraged him to specialise in the field events.
“I still believe there are many Katonons out there. All we need is to guide, mentor and support them properly. I’d love to see my record broken, see many Kenyans qualify for field events at the Olympics and other major events.”
The selected team will enter a residential training camp ahead of the continental event as Team Kenya will be seeking to better her second place overall position from the 2019 championships held in Tunisia.
Already 10 countries have confirmed participation at the week-long event.