Samuel Muturi once felt pretty lonely paddling his slalom canoe in Kenya.

It was the noughties, and Muturi wasn’t even sure himself if it was something he wanted to do. It was 2007, Muturi was not even a teenager, and it was definitely not a trendy sport in Nairobi.

So he gave it up, to concentrate on the sorts of things teenagers concentrate on. But he soon realised he missed it. He was working in rafting, which is a much more popular sport on the Sagana River.

“Around my area we have a rafting company, and I saw people going down in creek boats,” he said.

“I was interested, because my home is near a river. Every time I was jumping in there were people passing by who were rafting and kayaking.

“I had a friend who was doing slalom, and he convinced me to give it a go. I started paddling in 2007, but I didn’t train very much. Then I went back in 2013 and did my first real training.”

Things moved quickly from there.

“In 2015 I did my first competition, in the African qualifiers in Kenya,” he said.

“In 2019 I did world championships in La Seu. Again, I didn’t qualify, but I still have a few more years to do that.”

26-year-old Muturi is back at his second world championships in Bratislava, Slovakia, this week. He’s one of a rare breed who is doing both K1 and C1, and has thrown in the extreme slalom for good measure. On Thursday he had four runs – two for C1 and two for K1.

He was proud after his K1, not because of his time, but because he had finished the course without missing any gates. He did the same in the C1 in the afternoon.

“I didn’t get good lines, so I messed up on a few gates. I didn’t miss any, but I had lots of touches,” he said.

“I’m getting better all the time. From my last event to the one I have done just now, I have seen lots of progress.”

Muturi has been part of the ICF development course in Bratislava, run by experienced coaches to give athletes from countries where canoe slalom is still developing a chance to learn from the best.

And Muturi is planning to take what he learns back to Kenya, where more and more young athletes are starting to notice the sport.

“It’s not a big sport in Kenya, but we have started training more young people. Maybe in a couple of years we will have a lot of athletes from Kenya,” he said.

“We don’t have a lot of facilities in Kenya. I went to France to do training in 2019, but we had to return home after just three or four days because of Covid.”

He hopes to  be back in France in 2024, this time making history as Kenya’s first canoe slalom Olympic athlete.

Pics by Dezso Vekassy

Kenya Samuel Muturi Bratislava 2021

Canoe Slalom
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