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Wilson Kiprugut: I am proud as Kenya’s first ever medalist at Olympics

ATHLETICS By Jonathan Komen | May 27th 2021
Former athlete Wilson Kiprugut Chumo at his residential home in Kericho County. He was the first African to participate in Olympic games. 19.05.2021. [Peter Ochieng, The Standard]

October 29, 1964 will remain etched into the mind of Wilson Kiprugut Chumo - the first Kenyan Olympic medalist.

It was the day Kiprugut landed back from Tokyo, Japan, where he had won men’s 800m bronze medal, the first Olympic medal out of the 103 medals Kenya has won so far at the Summer Games.

He brags albeit good-naturedly. “We went to the Olympic as newcomers. We were very young though I competed internationally at the Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia, in 1962,” he said.

His Olympic medal hangs on the wall in his bedroom. “This is a very important medal for me and the entire country. When I arrived in Nairobi (on October 29, 1964), I carried shoulders high on the streets. There was a huge celebration.

“People from different parts of the country turned up. It is a moment I will never forget.

“I cherish the Olympic medal. That is why I keep it in my bedroom. I am proud to be Kenya’s first Olympic medalist,” he said.

Kiprugut said the competition at the Olympic Games in 1964 was not as stiff as nowadays.

“The competition was very low. Our athletes run faster nowadays. Charles Mukora was our coach,” he said.

He said they still keep in touch with some of the Olympic track legends like Kipchoge Keino.

“Kipchoge Keino visited me recently. We shared a lot about our days representing the country. He told me about the need to advise our young athletes on so many issues like doping,” he said.

Former athlete Wilson Kiprugut at his residential home in Kericho County. [Peter Ochieng, The Standard]

Wilson Kiprugut Chumo, who won Kenya’s first Olympic medal at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, has also cautioned the national team against doping.

Kiprugut, who won bronze in 800m, said it shameful for athletes to win medals at the Olympics and get them stripped later.

“Doping is a very bad vice. It puts our nation into discredit. I ask them to avoid using banned substances.

“Athletes visit me in my house here (Kericho) and the first thing I tell them is to avoid doping. I encourage them to work hard and utilize their talents. They should just work and trust in God,” Kiprugut told Standard Sports at his home near Kipsigis Girls High School in Kericho recently.

His remarks came even as Jemimah Sumgong was banned few years after winning Rio Olympic Games marathon gold medal.

“Sometimes, I used to visit junior training camp at Kiptere Secondary School and offer some advise to the young athletes. I tell them to protect the Kenyan image. During our time, we never used to dope,” said the 83-year-old Kiprugut, who served at the Kenya Defence Forces.

On the state of sports stadia in the country, he said, the Government has tried a lot to build sports infrastructure.

“The Government has made good efforts. During our time, there were few sporting facilities. The reward scheme from competition was too little. We could only get seven dollars. That was until in 1972 Olympic Games in Munich when money started streaming in. The likes of Kipchoge Keino made some cash,” he added.

His son, Gideon Rugut, said the track legend is still fit and sound. “Mzee is still fit. He shares a lot with us about athletics only none of us took up the sport. We are proud of him as the first Kenyan to win an Olympic medal. He has brought fame and pride to our family and the nation.”

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