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Praise for athletics legend Ben Jipcho as he is laid to rest

ATHLETICS By Obare Osinde | August 1st 2020
A mourner holds a portrait of 1972 Olympic 3000m steeplechase silver medalist Ben Jipcho, who was buried at his farm in Kisawai village in Trans Nzoia County yesterday. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Thousands of mourners turned up for the funeral of athletics legend, the late Ben Jipcho, at Kisawai village in Trans Nzoia yesterday.

Deputy President William Ruto, 1968 Olympic 1,500m champion Kipchoge Keino, Senate speaker Kenneth Lusaka were among a host of leaders, active and retired top athletes who attended the burial.

Ruto eulogised Jicho, the 1972 Olympic 3000m silver medalist, as a selfless athlete who contributed immensely to sports development in the country.

The DP said the nation has lost a unique and an accomplished athlete who helped nurture many young talents.

He narrated how Jipcho sacrificed to ensure Kipchoge Keino won the 1,500m race at the 1968 Olympic Games and beat the then world record holder Jim Ryun.

"He was a good pace setter. He stood as selfless athlete. He sacrificed his win to give Kenya the first Olympic 1,500m gold at the Olympics," said Ruto.

Ruto said the nation recognises the huge contribution Jipcho made in athletics, especially inspiring the young generation.

"My presence here is to demonstrate how the government recognises this fallen sporting hero. We join the family in mourning him.

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"The likes of Kipchoge and Ben Jipcho suffered a little bit. There was no reward scheme then. But we have come up with one now. We will think of coming up with a reward scheme for the legends too," said Ruto

He said the government would help Jipcho’s family especially the unemployed siblings. Jipcho left behind four widows and several children.

Top athletes present were three-time world 3000m steeplechase champion Moses Kiptanui, national 400m record holder Fathwel Kimayio, Billy Kosgei, Susan Sirma, Rose Tata and Juma Ndiwa.

Two-time Boston Marathon winner Moses Tanui, former world 10km record holder Leonard Komon, Kenyan-turned-Qatari James Kwalia and Kenneth Tanui were also present.

Keino described Jipcho as a true friend and a patriotic, who devoted his life to development of athletics.

“We have lost one of our pillars in athletics. We are here to mourn a hero and an accomplished athlete and we request our government to support the family,’’ said Keino.

Former Cherangany MP and 2012 Boston Marathon winner Wesley Korir said many athletes who have made the country proud have been neglected.

“There is no need to celebrate heroes when they are dead. Let us support and recognise them when they are alive,’’ said Korir.

Senate speaker Lusaka praised Jipcho for his efforts in setting up the high altitude training camp in Mt Elgon.

"We remember Jipcho as the founder of Chomonge Training Camp. I ask that we should name the facility after him," said Lusaka.

MPs Robert Pokuse (Endebess), Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini), Fred Kapondi (Mt Elgon) and Bunguma women Rep Catherine Wambilianga were present. Others were former minister Noah Wekesa and former assistant minister Wilberforce Kiseiro and former nominated MP Samuel Moiben.

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