By Basil K Mbuye & Andrew Nsoseka
The Queen of the Mountain, Sarah Liengue Etonge, has lamented the domination of the Mount Cameroon Race of Hope by female athletes from the Northwest Region and asserted that those in the Southwest Region are not brave enough to challenge the Chariots of the gods like in the yesteryears.
The seven time Champion was speaking during the 24th edition of the Mount Cameroon Race of Hope that took place in Buea on Saturday, February 23.
Hear Her: “Female athletes in the Southwest Region don’t like to work very hard. I have tried all I can, to train a female successor, but none of the Southwest athletes has the type of heart that I have to delve into mountaineering. I have also tried to advice some of them to come so that I can mentor them to become champions tomorrow. I have pleaded with some to make use of the Mountain that is just in our own backyard, but my pleas have all been fruitless. Unfortunately, I have never had a female Southwesterner who will approach me for help in mentoring her. Instead, those that show interest in running the Mountain Race are the boys.”
The Queen of the Mountain congratulated female athletes from the Northwest Region of the country for their bravery and achievements in the Mount Cameroon Race of Hope.
“I want to congratulate female athletes from the Northwest Region for their bravery and determination. They are always there in the race no matter the difficulties they are facing,” Etonge averred.
Since the female senior category of the Mount Cameroon Race of Hope was instituted in 1983, four females from the Southwest Region have won the race, all from Fako Division.
The race has been dominated by female athletes from the Northwest Region of Cameroon.
Emilia Mojoko Ngonja won the race thrice (1983, 1985, and 1986). In 1984, Sarah Njie Ewelisane became the second female athlete from the Southwest Region and the second Cameroonian lady to win the race.
Three years after, Christina Embelle Etonge won the race in 1987 and 1992 fly high the Cameroonian flag in the Mount Cameroon race of Hope in the midst of foreign domination.
From 1996, the legendary Queen of the Mountain, Sarah Leingu Etonge became the fourth Fako female athlete to win the race. She won the race seven times despite domination from Northwest athletes like Catherine Ngwang and Yvonne Ngwaya, who have also won the race seven times among others.
Anglophone Crisis Kills Race’s Competitiveness
The 41km distance that was covered last year by Godlove Gabsibuin in four hours twenty-eight minutes, was this year covered by Eric Mbacha in four hours forty minutes and nine seconds.
The increase in the time difference has been blamed on the socio-political crisis plaguing the two English-speaking Regions of Cameroon. Despite their brilliant performances in the just ended Mount Cameroon Race of Hope, athletes from the Northwest Regions bemoaned that the ongoing Anglophone Crisis has had a negative toll on their training.
Speaking after his victory, the 2019 champion of the Race in the junior male category, Cornelius Mentang asserted that the Crisis impeded his training.
To the second place Pery Yaya Iliassou, his training became more difficult after his family was chased away by gunmen. “I had to train, look after my sheep and also prepare my food after training. These chores reduced my resting time and made it difficult for me to perform at my best.”
On his part, Saidou Suleman last year’s champion in the Junior male category who emerged third this year, blames his poor performance on the fact that he could not train freely because of the socio-political instability.
“The situation made me to change the geographical location of my training for fear of the unknown. This drastically reduced my chances of defending my title.”
Race Holds Amidst Tight Security
Meanwhile, despite the successful organisation of this year’s race, the effervescence that often characterised the event with the town teeming with life, celebration, booming in businesses and other activities was absent this year.
Given the present situation of insecurity and threats from separatist fighters and campaign to disrupt the race, security was beefed-up in strategic areas of town.
Prior to the race, hundreds of soldiers drafted in from the Rapid Intervention Battalion, BIR, contingent was positioned in all major road junctions and roadsides, a day before the actual event.
The same routine was repeated on the day of the race, but this time, the BIRS were replaced by gendarmes, police officers and special units.
At the Molyko Omnisport Stadium, the population showed up to cheer the athletes. The usual fanfare and dance groups that have over the years animated the race ceaselessly were all absent.
Armoured Cars Convey Minister, Other Officials To Stadium
Meantime, the Minister and other top administrative officials, who presided over the event arrived the stadium in armoured cars, and when the occasion was over, they buckled up in their amour vehicles and left.
Mbacha, Tata Crown 2019 Winners
After ascending and descending the Chariots of the gods, Eric Mbacha emerged winner of the 2019 Mount Cameroon Race of Hope in the men’s category, while Carine Tata came first in the female category.
Silver – Ngalim Lisette N
Bronze-Gabsibuin. E. Webngon
Junior Women’s Category
Bronze-Latte Flora Y
Silver- Ngwaya Marie D
Gold-Tume Macrita Yunyuy
Junior Men’s Category
Bronze –Saidu Sulemanu
Silver-Pery Yaya Iliassou
Officials Rob Athlete Of Prize Money
Pery Yaya was replaced in his potion because his school identity card had no stamp. Thus Saidou Soulemanu went to the second position and the fourth person (Abdul Sale Giwa) was brought in to occupy the third position.
The youngest athlete in this year’s race, was Timbong Herbert, 10, while the eldest, in the male category, Owona Essono, 69years. In the female category, the eldest, Mengwi Justina, was 54years old.
Peace Crusader Bags Home FCFA 200,000
An impromptu special prize for citizenship and patriotism was given by the Sports and Physical Education Minister, Prof Narcisse Mouelle Kombi, to Jules Kom Kom, who arrived later in the day, when prizes were already being awarded, but his carrying of the Cameroon flag and a peace plant won admiration and attention of spectators. The Minister handed an envelope to Jules, on which it was written, FCFA 200,000. Jules also had a line on his hairs written, 1+1=peace.