One evening in October last year, just weeks after the Tokyo Olympics, a feeble Wilson Kiprugut Chumo, who died on Tuesday night, walked into a National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) Awards Gala at the Eka Hotel, in Eldoret.
With the support of a walking stick and two grandsons, Chumo stole the show.
His arrival at the October 6, 2021 ceremony reminded Kenyans of the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, where he (Kiprugut) wrote history as the first Kenyan to win an Olympic medal.
The late Kiprugut Chumo who died aged 84, won a bronze medal for Kenya in the 1964 event.
At hand to receive him at the Awards Gala was Kipchoge Keino (popularly known as Kip Keino), the legend who won gold in 1500m at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
After the warm reception, the two legends sat on different tables, but Kip Keino, who looked energetic was spotted severally walking to Kiprugut’s table before returning back to his seat after a hearty laughter.
Kip Keino, 82, came from Nandi while Kiprugut came from Kericho for the awards gala.
During their prime, Kiprugut Chumo served in the military while Kip Keino was attached to the police force (now police service).
Yesterday, a day after the news of Kiprugut’s demise broke, Kip Keino mourned him as a true friend, saying his demise had heralded loneliness in his life, especially after recent losses of Ben Jipcho (who played rabbit for Kip Keino, helping him beat Jim Ryun at the 1968 Olympics) and Ben Kogo (a 3000m Olympic steeplechase silver medallist in 1968).
“I met him twice last year, at his home in Kericho and in Eldoret, and it was an emotional reunion. In Eldoret, I reminded him of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics success and how he felt being the first Kenyan to win an Olympic medal, and he was overjoyed. We both laughed about our achievements,” Kip Keino told The Standard in a telephone interview.
The two friends – Kip Keino and the late Kiprugut also took part in the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, where Kip Keino won gold in 1500m and Chumo brought home silver in 800m.
Meanwhile, Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba said the late Chumo was an advisor to budding athletes.
“Indeed, as a nation, we owe so much to Kiprugut’s athletics achievements that set the stage for Kenya’s reputation as a world leader in middle and long distance running,” Namwamba said.
National Olympic Committee of Kenya President Paul Tergat said: "Mzee Chumo was a trailblazer that opened the way for our athletes and country to establish the rich tradition and status within the Olympic Movement of Kenya’s athletic and sporting prowess."