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Riches to Rags: Athlete who bagged millions, now living in poverty



A side-by-side image of former Kenyan athlete Delilah Asiago during the 1991 IAAF World Championships (left) and picking tea in Cherangany, Trans Nzoia County. FILE

Not many of the younger generation might have heard of former Kenyan athlete Delilah Asiago, but sports enthusiasts fondly remember her as one of the elite long-distance runners who took the world by storm for almost two decades. 

Known for her speed and agility, Asiago flew the Kenyan flag high in major international competitions scooping gold medals in events such as Steamboat Classic where she set a world record, All Africa Games, World Championships, Bay to Breakers event where she set a 12 kilometre world record among others.

She was also feted as Road Racer of the Year in 1995 by Running Times. 

Despite having a notable name, the former World record holder is currently languishing in poverty. 

From scooping gold medals to picking tea in Cherangany, Trans Nzoia County, where did it all go wrong for the elite Kenyan athlete?

Speaking to Citizen TV, Asiago noted that her woes began in 1999 when she was banned for two years due to doping allegations. 


She defended herself by stating that she fell ill and took medicine which later tested positive for doping substances. 

Seeking to reclaim her lost glory, Asiago made a momentous comeback and clinched medals in events such as the Great Lake Marathon in 2002, Nairobi Marathon in 2003, Rotterdam marathon in 2004 and, the Dubai Marathon in 2006. She participated in the 2008 Cross-Country Ngong racecourse event as the final race in her career. 

The Dubai marathon, reports indicate, is among the world’s most lucrative sports events, where the winner scoops Ksh20 million and an additional Ksh10 million for breaking the world record.

More than a decade later, however, she stated that life took a turn for the worse as she struggled to make ends meet. 

According to the former athlete, part of the millions she won during the events was used to construct a house for her parents in Nakuru. She also delved to invest in other properties but currently could not account for all the millions she gained during her heydays.


The marathoner urged the government to step in and take care of athletes and save them from abject poverty. Further, Asiago issued a word of advice to all athletes to always save part of the money for future use. 

“To all athletes, please try and save part of the money you get after winning the events. Do not try and misuse the money otherwise you may end up in an unfortunate situation picking tea at a farm,” Asiago advised all Kenyan athletes. 

Her plight comes on the heels of Kenyan athletes shining during the recently held 2020 Tokyo Olympics where they scooped ten medals comprising of four gold, four silver, and two bronze medals.


Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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