Things don’t just happen. They are made to happen, even in the most unusual fashion imaginable.
For 28 years, Josphat Machuka’s tale has been told and retold in the athletics circles.
During the 1992 world junior championships in Seoul, South Korea, Machuka excited Kenyan fans as he led in the men’s 10,000m final on the homestretch.
But Ethiopia’s Haile Gabrselassie produced a devastating kick a few metres from the finish line and upstaged him.
Whether it was deliberate or not, Machuka unleashed a blow on the Ethiopian’s back, who staggered to victory. Phew!
Machuka, who was born and bred in Bosansa village, Nyamira County, dictated the proceedings during the better part of the race only to lose the gold medal.
His action saw him also stripped of the silver medal, which would probably have mattered the most in his athletics career.
It was an overreaction which Machuka, the 1992 Africa 10,000m winner in Mauritius, admits was the height of unsportsmanship.
Machuka, the 1995 All African Games double winner (5,000m and 10,000) in Harare, Zimbabwe, recalls the tactics the Ethiopian legend employed during the race.
“Athletics is a funny sport. You’re not only racing against the clock but against others and yourself.
I had led from the start of the race as Gabrselassie trailed me closely. So, when you see an opponent running past you when you’ve done all the pacing, it can be frustrating. I didn’t take such frustrations lying down,” said Machuka.
No bad blood
He went on: “I do regret my actions. I should have handled the situation better. I wish I had the knowledge I have now. I was still young.”
Machuka, who turned 45 on Jamhuri Day last year, downplays talks on bad blood between him and Gebrselassie, whom he terms as a good friend.
“Besides the rivalry on the track, we are good friends and enjoy mutual respect.
He is a great man. I am happy to have attended his wedding some years back on his invitation,” said Machuka, who also won a bronze medal at the world cross country championships in 1992 and 1993 in Boston and Amorebieta in Spain respectively.
Now retired, Machuka decries the fact that South Nyanza has stalled in producing top athletes.
“The Gusii region was once a vibrant athletics catchment area. We need to reverse the trend,” he said.
He says with the exception of two-time world 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri, Gusii region might fail to have even a single representative in major championships or even Olympics in the future.
A husband and father of six five boys and a girl, Machuka is now a businessman and farmer operating in the counties of Kisii, Trans Nzoia, Vihiga and Kajiado.
The runner whose career was cut short after he was involved in a road accident in 1998 says he remains proud of what he did for his country and urges others to do the same.