International Runner and Mountaineer

I suspect an evil hand in my accident

Many questioned his absence from the starting line of the 2018 Mount Cameroon Race of Hope last February. Mbacha Eric, 2011 and 2014 champion, was not serving any ban. Rather, the elite of Nkambe in the North West Region was victim of a ghastly motorbike accident that saw his right leg tibia bone broken. The mishap, which the father of three suspects is mystical, has caused him much more than his non-participation at the Buea race. Read on for updates on his state of health, future plans and more.

One remarkable absentee of the 2018 Mount Came - roon Race of Hope was Mbacha Eric, renowned Mountain and Mara thon race champion in Africa (Cameroon inclusive), Europe and America. Many a Cameroonian questioned the raison d’être of this absence. In fact, the elite of Nkambe in the North West Region was victim of an accident. “On 10 June 2017, a reckless motorbike rider knocked me down, injuring me severely. An x-ray revealed that my right leg tibia bone was broken. I was bedridden at the Mbingo Baptist hospital for two months with a cast on my leg.

For nearly nine months, I was down. Medics, during regular medical checkups, reassured that the bone was joining and prescribed the consumption of more calcium. Yet, I felt pains each time I tried to jog,” the two-time winner of the Race of Hope (2011 and 2014), vice cham - pion (2006, 2007 and 2015) and second runner-up (2003, 2004 and 2016) of the same competition told “Nyanga” Ma - ga zine in an exclusive interview. But Mbacha Eric suspects an evil hand is responsible for the accident. “I suspect it was mystical. It happened three days to my journey to France, where I had sealed a deal with “New Balance”, a company specialized in sports kits.

“New Balance” had registered me for four races, paid my flight, lodging and insurance bills, unfortunately I couldn’t travel. Thus, the one-year trial contract was put on hold. But the officials promised to call me as soon as I become fit… More so, I learnt some people mocked at me, saying they will see how I will run again, and how my name and that of my village, Nkambe, will make news again,” the athlete regretted.

TOUGHER IN TOUGH TIMES

It never rains, but it pours, goes an adage. Two months after his accident,Mbacha Johnson, his father, died (August 2017). In January 2018, the athlete’s wife, Sidonie, was operated upon. Mbacha Eric, the lone male child out of the seven born to monogamous parents, knew how to be tougher when the going became tough. He admits it has not been easy for him as throughout his life, he has depended on the fallouts of his brilliant performances in mountain and marathon races to look after his family. Nevertheless, his wife, a teacher at Saint Marceline Secondary School Nkambe respected the marriage vow of staying by her husband even during moments of hardship. “She has been the one taking care of me and the family,” the 34-year-old revealed, trusting God that he will soon make his comeback in competitions. The 1.7m tall athlete resumed training a month ago and ranked fifth at the Njalla Quan International Marathon race (42Km) in Limbe on 14 April. He hopes to be on the starting line of the Race of Hope in 2019.

WHY ATHLETICS ?

The acquisition of formal education was one, among other factors, that made Mbacha Eric to stick to athletics. His father stopped paying his school fees in Form One following his resignation as a Baptist primary school teacher because of meagre salary. The mother, a peasant farmer, could not help either. “From Form Two, when I began bagging cash prizes from races, I sponsored myself (bought didactic materials, paid fees and rents) till I obtained the GCE Advanced level (two papers) in building construction from Saint Rita’s College Nkambe,” he said. After several unsuccessful attempts at the military, police, INJS and CENAJES competitive exams, he embraced sports as a full-time profession.

Victories at mountain and marathon contests in Cameroon, Nigeria, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, the USA (Dallas White Rock and Boston Marathon races) and in France have, for the past 27 years, permitted him to finance the education, right up to the University, of his younger sisters, two of whom now live and work as nurse and hotel assistant in Dubai. He equally bought a farm on which he cultivates corn, Irish potatoes, cocoyam and other food crops in the village. Neither black magic nor the consumption of banned substances (drugs) have, he intimated, never contributed to his achievements that have fetched him awards such as “Best Runner of All Times”. Regular training on the slopes of Nkambe, Missaje, Berabe and Lassin in Inoni has been his magic wand.

AMBITIONS

With God, the Baptist Christian has a special relationship. The names of his three children recall memorable happenings. “My first daughter was born two weeks after my 2011 Mt Cameroon Race victory and I named her “Sharma” (meaning the “Lord was present” with me during the race). Three weeks following my triumph in Buea in 2014, my second daughter, “Shalom” (meaning “Peace of the Lord”), was delivered. “Shiloh” (House of Worship of God) is the name I gave my son, born on 3 January 2018, in the heart of my tribulations,” the man who likes ndolé and yam with a glass of orange juice on the table recalled. Mbacha Eric’s greatest wish, before retirement, is to set up a sports academy to train future champions.


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