From Fabris Kehdinga in Buea
Ahead of the 25th Mount Cameroon Race of Hope slated for Saturday February 22, Sarah Liengu Etonge, who has won the race in the female category a record seven times, has revealed the secret behind her unrivaled achievements.
Her unrivaled records during her time in the race elevated her to the rank of “Queen of the Mountain” after she won four consecutive titles, a record that is yet to be broken with her most recent victory before her retirement in 2005.
The native of Buea in the South West region has brought a lot of glory and honour to the Bakweri people. This is why the city unveiled a statue to honour her in 2006, which was the second municipal statue ever after that of former German Chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck.
She was awarded a Doctorate in Mountaineering by Professor Emeritus Lydia Luma of the Cameroon education corporation on March 12, 2005.
The Mount Cameroon Race of Hope is an annual international race which started in 1972, is run in the month of January or February with thousands of athletes from around the globe challenging the 4,700 metres tall “Chariot of the gods”.
Sarah Etonge spoke to The Guardian Post’s Fabris Kehdinga in Buea.
You have been champion of the Mount Cameroon Race of Hope seven times. Tell us what it takes to be a champion?
Yes to be a Champion is not an easy task. Before Mama Sarah Liengu Etonge became the Queen of the Mountain, Doctor Sarah Liengu Etonge, the champion of the mountain race, I worked hard for it. If you hear that I worked hard because I was not joking. I put concentration first and I love what I am doing. I love running.
You must first have love for what you are doing and God will see your efforts and bless you. So that is the thing that I did before I chose to be the Queen of the Mountain and Doctor.
How many times did you train a day?
You know that Mama Sarah was good for marathon. I was doing marathon; Track and Field and the Mountain. When the mountain race is coming up, I know that I must climb the mountain at least once a week. Then for a month I am sure to climb and descend the chariot of the gods four times.
Have you ever taken part in an international race apart from the Mount Cameroon Race of Hope?
Yes, I have taken part in several international races. I have participated in Switzerland, Paris, Libreville, Senegal and Guinea Conakry.
When you look at the performance of young athletes today, do you feel that they are serious like you were?
Yes, the seriousness is there. You know for us, I must praise everybody who was taking part in the Race of Hope in our time, because the time we were running, there was no money but I was doing it for my country.
Like now that you know there is money, everybody wants the money and you must work hard because when you win they give you 10 million FCFA .You see that in our time, winner had just 250 to 500 thousands FCFA and 1.5 million francs.
You see that we were doing it with love not for money. So for now there is money, your working hard for the money and you must work hard for country also.
It has been 15 long years since a Bakweri native who own the mountain last won and you were the one in 2005. Do you think that your ‘country-people’ are working hard like you did?
I have not seen! I cannot tell you a lie. Since I was in the field and now that I am retired, I have never seen any Bakweri girl who would take the position or do what I was doing.
I have not seen a girl who would take the pains because it is painful and the concentration to do what I was doing. I have not seen. We are looking ahead for boys but for girls I have not seen.
I have not seen a girl in Bakweri who will take the first, second or even third position. The concentration for them is not there compared with what I see from other regions like the North West. That’s why I say that in order to win the mountain race you must work hard, you don’t just sit and one month to the race, you start climbing, thinking that you will win. You must train hard. I trained for the whole year before I achieved what I achieved.