HENRY WANYOIKE – MARATHON RUNNER
Henry Wanyoike was born in Kikuyu, Kenya in 1974. His family lived at the border of the slums of Kikuyu. His father died while Henry was still young. Being the first born of two siblings Henry was responsible for his mother and sister. He tried to help out in the neighbourhood in order to make a contribution to the household. Although he was one of the fastest runners during school competitions, he was never supported and therefore his talent for running remained hidden. After school he decided to become a shoemaker.
When Henry woke up on May 1st in 1995 he couldn’t see. He had suffered a stroke in the night and turned blind. With the loss of his eyesight the once so vibrant young man lost his love for live. His depressions got so severe, that even his body gave up. His legs gave way, his jaw stiffend. His mother and close friends fed him but he continued a life of agony.
Things change when the German Christoffel Blindenmission opens up an eye hospital in Kikuyu. Henry went to see the two therapists Petra Verweyen and Regina Kavata Kitau. They young see a man who’s moods swing from overwhelming joy to a deep sadness. One day he tells them about his dream. He wanted to become a runner, a World record champion, a Gold medalist. Petra Verweyen notes that Henry is a very sweet guy, but crazy.
Two years later (2002) in Nairobi Henry runs as a substitute in a qualification run for the Paralympics in Sydney. He has no sports outfit and runs with his trousers cut off, a regular shirt and without any shoes. And he wins. In Sydney him and his guide reach the finals of 5000m. This final race made it into the history books. An unknown Kenyan takes over the field twice when his guide all of a sudden gets slower and slower. He tells Henry that he has malaria and is not able to run any further. But Henry Wanyoike pulls his exhausted guide through the race. With the help of the audience who guides him Henry wins the race. But his win is a bitter one. The committee refuses to give him the Gold medal, because they now doubt that Henry is blind. After days of dreadful examinations he was finally given the Gold medal for his 5000 m win.
“From Zero to Hero”, said Arnold Schwarzenegger and sums up the life of Henry Wanyoike. Since his historic win in Australia Henry uses his fame for good causes. Supported by sponsors and his good friend and guide Joseph, Henry participates in competitions around the world to collect money for his “Henry Wanyoike Foundation”. He finances eye operations for children, opened up the “School of hope” in the slums for children with disabilities and organized together with Boris Becker cows for Kikuyu – “a cow for Africa”. He takes part in the reforestation of destroyed woods and founded a little sowing factory where young people can get an education. Every year in June he organizes the “Run for hope for a better future” and he is currently working on setting up a sportscamp for children and young adults.