Yaounde – Sports and Physical Education Minister on Saturday boycotted the Mt. Cameroon race of Hope event, preferring to attend a memorial ceremony of the mother of First Lady, Chantal Biya.
It is the first time that a sitting Sports Minister has not attended the racing event.
Bidoung Mkpatt was in Badenkop in the West Region on Saturday to represent the presidential couple at the memorial ceremony, the same day the 21st edition of the country’s annual flagship mountaineering jamboree was taking place.
Local reports say the funeral event was also largely boycotted by elite of the West Region, from where 82-year-old Senate President, Niat Njifenji hails.
Mountain race proper
Least expected name, Fai Elvis, emerged winner of the 2017 edition of the mount Cameroon race of hope in the men’s senior category.
The event was void of the usual pump and pageantry witnessed in previous editions, observers posited.
The race, ran on Saturday February 25, was also dominated by athletes from the North West Region of the country.
First-time winner, Fai, is a 32-year-old from Ndop in Ngoketunjia Division.
Gabsibuin Godlove and Lyonga Essombe, son of race legend, Sarah Liengu Etonge, emerged second and third, respectively, in the senior men’s category.
Ndungeh Simplice, winner of last year’s edition, was knocked out of the top three spots this term.
In the women’s category, last year’s third place occupant, Ngalim Lizette, upped her performance this time around to finish on top, pushing last year’s champion, Yvonne Ngwanya, to second place in a closely contested run.
Mountain queen, Sarah Liengu Etonge, who participated in this year’s race after announcing earlier her retirement, said she decided to race to drive home the message of peace and national unity. She emerged a distant 90th but arrived the finish point to a rousing welcome. She received special prizes. The race, it should be said, took place this year in the context of the Anglophone crisis.
Winners in the men and women’s senior categories each bagged home FCFA 10 million prize money while the first and second runners up pocketed FCFA five and three million each, respectively.
Participants from nine other countries including, Great Britain, Kenya and Nigeria also took part.
Despite being the first official event to be staged at the rebranded Molyko Omnisport stadium, and coming a day after the 2017 Africa cup of nations trophy caravan stopped in the South West regional capital, the annual flagship athletics event remained hugely unattended. However, a number of curious fans lined some streets in Buea to cheer up the athletes.
We gathered that not only was there a palpable vacuum following the withdrawal of Guinness Cameroon SA as lead sponsor of the race, recurrent organizational irregularities showed their ugly head again. There were limited press badges while some athletes complained of nonpayment of bonuses.