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Sarah Etonge 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr

CameroonPostline.com
— Sarah Liengu Etonge may have emerged a distant fourth at the 17th edition of the Mt Cameroon Race of Hope staged in the South West regional capital Buea at the weekend.  But the 51-year-old still has something special to write home about.

Sarah Liengu Etonge received a special award from Mrs Adoum Garoua and Albert Roger Milla

After three years of waiting and hoping, almost against hope, the 7-time winner of one of the most challenging races in Africa may finally reap tangible benefits from her status as “Queen of the Mountain.”  

The government of Cameroon via its Ministry of Sports and Physical Education, the Cameroon Athletics Federation and various partners has flagged off the construction of a befitting residence for the ageing conqueror of the Chariot of the Gods.

Initial steps towards the ripening of the long-awaited promise were taken on 17 February in Buea Town when Sports and Physical Education, Adoum Garoua personally laid the foundation for the project. 

“This is the result of efforts made by my predecessors.  The process was slowed down by lack of funding.  But now, the money is all there and in the few months ahead, Sarah Etonge, who is a national hero, should be living in a house that matches her ranking,” the minister told CameroonPostLine.com shortly after placing the first blocks of the residence.

He appeared ambiguous when asked about the exact cost of the project and its duration.  But the ambiguity did not steal the sparkle from the face of Sarah Etonge, who broke a three-year respite to compete along 600 other athletes for the 2012 Mt Cameroon Race. 

“I lack the words to express what I feel.  For three years, I have been waiting and praying.  Today, my dream has finally come true and I thank God and the new minister of sports for his personal implication towards the realization of this project,” she said, elation visible over her face.  Equally jubilant kin and a fistful of locals soon joined her in an on-the-spot thanksgiving song and dance session.

Sarah is currently coached by one of her sons, Simo Pierre Talla, a student at the Institute of Youth and Sports, INJS in Yaoundé.  He Sarah’s Etonge return to the tracks was not necessarily to win the 3-million-FCFA prize money, but a demonstration of her Olympic spirit. 

“The goal for her is not to win, but to show that world that she is not finished as far as the Mt Cameroon Race is concerned.  I encouraged her to run again and she’s been training as always, going up and down the mountain several times every week,” Pierre Talla told CameroonPostLine.com.

Yet, critics opine her participation in the 38.2 Km race was a precondition set by the Cameroon Athletics Federation for the laying of the foundation stone.  Others say the residence will be perched too close to a meandering road stretch in Buea town and thus render it prone to ramming by vehicles that may slip off. 

But officials at the athletics federation have waved off the reproach.  “The 17th edition of the Mt Cameroon Race of Hope is hinged on hope, and with the laying of the foundation, it is hope that has been born, will grow and be realized,” Sebastien Mbous, the federation president said.  The theme for the 2012 race read: “United in Hope” and coincides with the commemoration this year in Buea of the 50 anniversary of Cameroon’s reunification.  
 

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