Loss of sight after suffering a paralytic stroke more than a decade ago has not dimmed the enthusiasm of Kenyan long distance runner Henry Wanyoike who has overcome enormous odds to live his athletics dream.
“I lost my sight but not my vision. I have achieved without sight what I dreamt when I could see,” said the visually impaired Wanyoike ahead of his participation in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon this Sunday.
Wanyoike, who lost his eye in 1995, has overcome this tremendous handicap to be crowned as a world track champion, a Paralympic gold medallist in Sydney 2000 and a nominee of the prestigious Laureus World Sports Award in 2005 besides winning the 2004 Hong Kong half marathon.
“I was born in slums, and brought up in a lot of hardships. When I was five, I had to run five km to reach my school and five km back to reach home again. That started my interest in running,” said Wanyoike.
“In 1995, I suffered a paralytic stroke to the left side of my body. One day when I woke up I could no longer see,” said Wanyoike, who will be participating in the half marathon race along with his sighted partner Joseph Kibunja and 40 women from the Hamara Foundation.
With his family not knowing how to support him and many friends deserting him, Wanyoike shared his thoughts with others who too had lost their sight and accepted the reality.
A good thing to emerge after the tragedy was his partnership with Joseph, a carpenter, whom he persuaded to become a long distance runner after the duo met through a common friend.
The duo have been together now for 10 years and participated in several races together and have now set their eyes on performing well in Sunday’s race.
“The initial five kilometres will be a challenge. People from all directions keep crossing us and we will have to find our way,” Joseph said.
“We have been running together for 10 years. For each race we have our targets and pace our timings accordingly,” he said. Joseph is grateful to Wanyoike for persuading him to run.
On this partnership, Wanyoike said, “when there is power in partnership, when there is strength, you can do whatever you set to achieve.”
“Out of these challenges, I’ve been able to myself a champion; I had more courage and more self-confidence. I want to tell others to go for their dreams and not hesitate to go for them,” he added.