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Kenyan runners protest at marathon prize

By Xie Wenting (Global Times)

10:11, May 27, 2013

After Kenyan participants in the Tianjin Marathon relay race refused their prize money, believing it to be too low, Tianjin sports bureau told the Global Times on Sunday that it had never agreed to give the athletes $50,000.

A total of 30 Kenyan runners participating in the relay race of the Second Tianjin International Marathon Competition on Saturday refused to accept the prize money when they discovered they were only to receive 50,000 yuan ($8,155) to be shared by the winning team.

The 30 Kenyans ran in six relay teams of five athletes over the marathon distance, three female and three male teams. All six teams placed in the top three in their category. Four more ran the individual marathon race, with Joel Kemboi Kimurer wining the male race and the prize money of $40,000.

One of the relay athletes, who did not want to be named, said via text message that they would be paid in dollars. "We see it (the amount) through Internet," the message said, however, it was unclear which website this was.

Yang Jun, an official with the Tianjin sports bureau which organized the event, told the Global Times they had never agreed to pay in dollars.

A search on the official website of Tianjin marathon committee shows the prize money is paid in yuan.

Hu Shabei, from a Hangzhou-based Chinese sports management company, who brought the Kenyans over, said she saw a post from the organizer that the prize was $50,000, and had kept a screen shot of the image.

"It wasn't until Friday that I learned from the event staff the relay prize is 50,000 yuan," Hu told the Global Times.

Yang denied that such an error would have been made.

"The staff is all experienced and wouldn't make such a mistake. I don't know where Hu could have got that screen shot from," said Yang, adding that all the Kenyan athletes had now received their prize money. The second place teams got 40,000 yuan, and 30,000 yuan was awarded for third place.

Tao Shaoming, former Chinese national long-distance running team coach, alleged that Hu's screen shot must have been Photoshopped.

"I've over 20 years experience of participating in running competitions. In marathons, the relay bonus will never be more than that for the individual marathon," said Tao, adding that he believes that the sports management company had deliberately misled the Kenyan athletes to get them over to China.

"I think what the company did is disgusting, and it will bring shame to Chinese people and Tianjin," he said.

Most Chinese marathons do not have relay races. Dalian International Marathon awarded 5,000 yuan to the winning relay team in 2012.

The prize for individual runners is similar to that of Tianjin and paid in dollars in other marathons in China.

All the Kenyan athletes boarded flights for home Sunday afternoon.

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