Murang’a County is set to host the Forth African Canoeing Championships at the Sagana River rapids in the next two weeks.
The sport, otherwise known as kayaking or slalom had previously attracted ten nations including Kenya but three have pulled out.
Their withdrawal is apparently as a result of the recent Westgate mall terrorist attack.
Defending champions South Africa will lead Nigeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Uganda and Senegal in the championships with the Kenyan 15 members team hoping to take the title this time round.
The event will be held at the Sagana Water Falls and Adventures (Sagana Rapids).
The sport which involves paddling across a 300 metres stretch of rapids and water falls at the Sagana River and passing across narrow gates without touching the sides will run from October 15 to 23, 2013.
River Sagana, known by locals as ‘thagana‘, joins other tributaries from the Aberdares and Mount Kenya to make up the headwaters of River Tana, Kenya’s longest river.
“Although three countries have pulled out following the Westgate attack, the other seven have confirmed participation and we are very optimistic that the event will go on very well,” said Sagana Rapids CEO William Kinuthia.
“We have contacted the Murang’a County security team and they will ensure all is well,” he added.
He said the first four days will be used for practice while the actual competition will begin from October 19 onwards.
The adrenaline packed water sport will be held courtesy of the International Canoeing Federation (ICF) and the Kenya Canoeing and Rowing Federation.
Apart from South Africa, the Sagana water falls in Kenya is the only other place in Africa suitable for this sport.
“Kenya and South Africa are the only countries with a suitable course and we expect the game to attract very many people especially tourists,” said Mr Kinuthia Thursday at a press conference in Murang’a town.
He said the Kenyan team of 10 men and five women has been based at the Sagana rapids camp preparing for the event.
Kenya last hosted the event in 2008 where 16 countries participated but it was overshadowed by the post-poll violence which erupted soon after the 2007 general elections.
Mr Kinuthia said they had already spent Sh500,000 to grade and reconstruct a 10 kilometre stretch of road linking the venue and the main road.
He asked asked the Murang’a County government to support the sport.
“The government has not been giving us any support and we have been forced to look for sponsors to facilitate the event,” he said.
He added that he was hoping to establish the sport in various counties that are endowed with rivers that have water falls and rapids.
Mr Kinuthia said soon after the teams are successfully established, an annual canoeing championship would be held locally.
“Kenya as a country has a better chance to compete at the international level in this activity because it has a canoeing course and very rough rivers suitable for practice,” he said.
Murang’a County Executive in charge of Education Mr David Waweru said the sport would help market the county as a tourist destination and venue for an international sporting event.