Tirop death lifts lid on female athletes’ woes
ATHLETICS | By Robin Toskin | October 14th 2021
The tragic killing of Olympian Agnes Tirop yesterday casts a dark shadow on the safety of Kenya’s female athletes in their marriages and relationships, high ranking Athletics Kenya (AK) officials have said.
Tirop’s lifeless body, riddled with stab wounds, was found in her house in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet county in suspected homicide.
Tirop, 25, was part of the triumphant Kenyan contingent to this year’s delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics where she represented the country in the 5,000m race and finished 4th in the final.
Yesterday, grieving AK Athlete’s Representative Milka Chemos and women Committee member Elizabeth Keitany said “a majority of Kenya’s female athletes are in abusive relationships, but afraid of coming out.”
“They are endangered species,” Keitany, the AK women Committee member, said. “The challenge is they won’t speak up out of fear. Some of them got into relations out of genuine love but in reality they don’t know what they get into,” Keitany said.
“We always get reports of quite a number of them in abusive marriages, but they don’t open up,” Keitany said.
Chemos, the World champion in 3000m steeplechase, and now athlete’s representative, said they spoke with Tirop as recent as Monday afternoon. “We spoke about many things, little did I know tragedy was on her way,” Chemos said.
“There are several athletes among them top athletes that I know, who are in abusive relations but they lack the courage to go public about it,” she said.
“AK has been planning for a seminar for the female athletes, a forum where we hope they would open up on their relationships. We need to rally behind the female athletes because, honestly there is a lot most of them are going through,” Chemos said.
Keitany and Chemos called on the female athletes to stop suffering in silence.
“Once an athlete is in a relationship, there is nothing we or even the government can do about it. However, they should be alive to the dangers of staying in abusive relationships,” Keitany said.
“Perhaps the only help we can seek now from government is to facilitate seminars for the female athletes where they can learn some life skills and how to react in situations that otherwise lead to bigger problems later,” Keitany said.
President Uhuru Kenya described the killing of Tirop as, “Unsettling, utterly unfortunate and very sad.”
“We’ve lost a young and promising athlete who, at a young age of 25 years, she had brought our country so much glory through her exploits on the global athletics stage including in this year’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics where she was part of the Kenyan team in Japan,” the President eulogised.
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