Kenya: Treat Us Better, Athletics Legends Urge State as Saisi is Laid to Rest

Hundreds of mourners converged on Kishaunet village in Kapenguria, West Pokot County to bid farewell to athletics legend Thomas Saisi who was laid to rest on Wednesday.

A somber mood engulfed the village as mourners eulogised the 1968 Mexico City 800 metres Olympics bronze medalist. He died on March 30.

Saisi, 75, also competed in the 1972 Summer Olympics and had a personal best time was 1.46.3 minutes, set in September 1971 in Munich.

The burial ceremony was dominated by calls for the government to prioritise the welfare of retired athletes.

Retired athlete Moses Kiptanui raised concerns over the government's treatment of national heroes and heroines during their hour of need.

Kiptanui said that most former athletes have been abandoned and are living miserable lives.

"It is disgusting to see someone who flew the Kenyan flag high living in such a house. I was inspired by runners of 1964 and 1968 Olympics because they were down to earth people. They knew what to do and they were not after money. Without them, Kenya could not have been recognised as an athletics giant today," Kiptanui said.

"Kipchoge Keino, Bill Kosgei and Thomas Saisi are legends and leaders who were not after money. They have left a legacy which must be emulated. This is not a home of a champion, it is a shame."

Kiptanui said the government should now step up and help the remaining veterans who are suffering in silence.

North Rift Athletics Kenya Secretary Bill Kosgei noted that he got to know Saisi in 1968, and called on the government to help offset medical bills accrued by the former athlete.

"Kindly look after us because we are only history. We used to go for the Commonwealth Games and Olympics where we were only paid Sh30," Kosgei recalled.

West Pokot Athletics Kenya chairman Sammy Ruto described Saisi's death as a loss for West Pokot County and the country at large citing his role in mentoring young athletes.

"We have to unite so that the Heroes and Heroines Fund can be implemented to enable us to benefit from the medical cover and pension as well. Athletes also worked hard for the country. We (athletes) are the ones who bring glory to this country. Wherever we go they play our national anthem but the government has neglected us," said Ruto.

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