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Thursday, February 12, 1998 Published at 03:36 GMT

Sport: Winter Olympics 98: Cross Country Skiing

Kenyan finishes last, but wins respect
image: [ Philip Boit is met on the finish line by Bjorn Daehlie ]
Philip Boit is met on the finish line by Bjorn Daehlie

Cross country skier Philip Boit has gained the respect of his fellow Olympians, despite coming a resounding last in the 10km cross country race.

The 26-year-old Kenyan, who only saw snow for the first time two years ago, finished the course in 47 minutes 25.25 seconds, almost exactly 20 minutes slower than the gold medallist Bjorn Daehlie.

But the Norwegian met him on the finish line, and urged him to pursue his career. "He deserves to be encouraged. It was hard for him but he never gave up," said Daehlie, who had just made Winter Olympic history by winning his sixth gold medal.

Boit, who missed two weeks of training when he had to go into hospital last month with a stomach complaint, was fortunate not to be disqualified when he broke into a skating style on the uphill sections.

At other times he looked more like he was running on skis rather than sliding: "It was really hard for me but this was about experience," said the cousin of former 800 metre world record runner Mike Boit.

Course officials followed him home and he broke into an arm-pumping display of energy as the Japanese fans cheered him home over the last 200 metres.

"My goal, my aim, is to become a world or Olympic champion. I'm dreaming about becoming the first African to do it. I will do it," he said.

"When you start something you have to give your best and by competing against all these great champions I get experience, I learn their secrets," he added.

"I didn't know if I would be able to compete in Nagano when I got a stomach problem and had to go into hospital. I lost my shape because I couldn't train."

International Olympic Committee member Charles Mukora insisted Boit - Kenya's first Winter Games competitor - was not an Eddie the Eagle, a reference to Britain's heroic failure of a ski jumper.

Mukora said there would be 10 Kenyan competitors in Salt Lake City in 2002 and more in future Games. "This is not a gimmick. I can assure you, you are going to hear a lot more about Kenya and skiing. At the next Games there will be more and more. That is a promise."

Mukora said Kenya's famed middle distance runners could soon be converting to winter sports.


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