Faith, Jepchirchir get State honours after great season

2020 Tokyo Olympic gold medalists Faith Chepng'etich Kipyegon feted with the Order of Grand Warrior (OGW) by President Kenyatta.PHOTO:[Wilberforce Okwiri,Standard]

Athletics bigwigs Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon and Peres Jepchirchir yesterday received State honours during the Jamhuri Day celebrations at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi.

President Uhuru Kenyatta honoured Kipyegon and Jepchirchir with the Order of the Grand Warrior awards for their exemplary performances in athletics this season.

Jepchirchir, the two-time world half marathon champion and women-only world 21km record holder, won Olympic marathon title in Sapporo, Japan, in August before becoming the first Olympic champion to win New York City Marathon crown last month.

That was a sigh of relief for Jepchirchir who braved numerous challenges to ascend to the pinnacle of global athletics. Not long ago, Peres Jepchirchir at times had to go without food since her family lacked the means.

But her story best exemplifies the ‘rags to riches’ tag that is so common among top Kenyan athletes. 

The glittering trophies in their houses, medals hanging from the walls and autographs signed by eminent people across the globe clearly capture their sports star status.

At the Olympic Games, Jepchirchir warmed Kenyans’ hearts when she won the Tokyo Olympic Games women’s marathon.

Peres Jepchirchir Feted with Prestigious Awards. Sunday (OGW) by President Kenyatta.PHOTO:[Wilberforce Okwiri,Standard]

She beat team mate and world marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei. Whether by design or default, the family challenges stirred Jepchirchir’s talent. 

The 27-year-old beat the odds to ascend to the pinnacle of world distance running.

“I lost my mother when I was two years old. My father had three wives and my mother was the second.

“We are 24 siblings and that is why I decided to work hard because we had very little resources at home. Life was not that easy. Small scale farming was the only source of income,” she said.

Jepchirchir, who was later taken in by her uncle David Barno, used to walk for five kilometres to Sambut Primary School daily and that stirred her latent talent in athletics.

But she never took part in athletics as she thought good education would deliver her from the poverty she was living in. That poverty is now history thanks to sterling performances in road running.

Jepchirchir, the women-only world 21km record holder, said she has always dreamed of making it big in athletics despite having zero track records.

Unlike most athletes who start competitive athletics and then graduate to road running, Jepchirchir picked up road running from the start.

Kipyegon, 27, won the Olympic 1500m title in August to become the third woman to retain her title after becoming a mother in-between the Games.

She won the World Athletics Diamond League trophy and set the national 1500m record and enjoyed a near-perfect season in 1500m.

She suffered her only defeat this year when she lost to Hassan at the Diamond League meeting in Florence, Italy.

She won the Monaco meeting with a world-leading national record of 3:51.07 – just one second shy of the world record – and then notched up victories at the Olympics with a Games record of 3:53.11 and at the Diamond League final in Zurich.

Last year, Catherine Ndereba and Timothy Cheruiyot were among a handful of Kenyans that the President honoured at the Jamhuri Day celebrations at Nyayo Stadium.

Ndereba was crowned with Moran of the Burning Spear (MBS) for her contribution to sports activities.

In 2019, world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge was crowned with Elder of the Golden Heart award while women-only world marathon record holder Mary Keitany received the Order of the Grand Warrior award.


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