Iten erupts in song and dance for Edna Kiplagat

London Marathon champion Mary Keitany (right) welcomes Edna Kiplagat as her husband Gilbert Koech savours the moment.  [PHOTO: PETER OCHIENG’ / STANDARD]

It was song and dance as the two-time World women’s marathon champion Ednah Kiplagat was welcomed home in a colourful ceremony by her family, friends and villagers in Mindililwo Village, near Iten in Elgeyo/Marakwet County, on Tuesday.

Kiplagat, who won the world title back to back, first in Daegu in 2011 and then in Moscow in the just-concluded global competition, was also received by County Commissioner Arther Osia and his deputy Moses Lilan, among the top-level administrators.

Although there was a low turn-out at the Eldoret International Airport and also in Iten because her arrival was not publicised, a fairly large crowd still emerged from the small hamlet, including top athletes like London Marathon champion Mary Keitany and her husband to welcome the champion.

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Ululations rent the air as the athlete who made Kenya proud through her win on the first day of the World Championships in Moscow, made her way back home.

The usual sour milk served in a traditional gourd, commonly known as mursik, was served as villagers paid tribute for her excellent performance.

Kiplagat glowed with happiness as she explained how she managed to win a gold medal in a race that she admits was tough.

“I started at a very slow pace and gained strength after 10 minutes when I realised that my competitors were far ahead. I increased the speed even though it was hot; I am used to training in low temperatures,” she said.

She revealed that the race was quite challenging at the start but since she was the defending champion, she gained confidence as the race progressed.

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“I was not sure if I could actually retain my title, but I thank my coach who is also my husband, Gilbert Koech, who always reminds me never to miss my daily training,” said an elated Kiplagat.

She urged Lucy Kaguu and Valentine Kipketer, who participated in the marathon although they did not perform well, to kick-start training for the next championships to be held in 2015 in Beijing and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil respectively.

Her husband and coach, Gilbert Koech, was happy with Kiplagat’s win, saying their training went as planned.

“My wife was training under 17 to 20 degrees Celsius in Kenya compared to 28 degrees Celsius in Moscow. Our eyes are now focused on the two major events to be held in Beijing and Brazil,” said Koech.

Josephine Keter, a villager, was not happy with the way the athlete was received since there was no proper communication between the family and villagers.

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“Our sister deserves a better homecoming ceremony that is commensurate with her achievement, but we were not informed of her coming. The whole village would have come out to welcome her,” she said.

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Elgeyo Marakwet County Iten Daegu Ednah Kiplagat