Kenya: Honour Athletics Legend Kiprugut While Alive, Kin Pleads

The family of legendary athlete Wilson Kiprugut has appealed to the government to rename Kericho Green Stadium after him in his honour.

Kiprugut, 83, became the first Kenyan athlete to win an Olympic medal during the 1964 Tokyo Summer Games in Japan where he bagged bronze in the 800 metres race. He also became the first indigenous African to achieve the feat.

The icon's grandson Kevin Kibet and his firstborn daughter Sarah Lang'at said they would love the stadium to bear his name. They also said that a street should be named after him.

"Let the country honour my grandfather when he is still alive and not when God takes him to rest," said the 28-year-old Kibet, adding that it is at the Kericho Green Stadium where Kiprugut trained before winning the prestigous medal.

"Back in the day we had school books that had chapters on my father's achievement. Pupils were taught about him in school, but that no longer happens," Lang'at said.

"We have stadiums named after athletics legends like Kipchoge Keino, but not my father... it's just a humble request for the government to consider him."

Lang'at, on behalf of the family, thanked Athletics Kenya, the government and Kenyans for their goodwill and kind wishes which have helped the legend live a long life.

"It was emotional for us when we saw mzee waving on television as he was honoured during Athletics Kenya's 70th anniversary celebrations in Nairobi," said Lang'at.

The family was addressing top Sports Ministry and the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) officials who had visited the first Black African to win an Olympic medal at his home in Kipchebor Village, Kericho County.

Kiprugut, who terrorised his rivals during his heyday, walked through a black metallic door of his house slowly, with the aid of a walking stick together with as his grandson to receive the visitors.

NOC-K acting Secretary General Francis Mutuku and Ministry of Sports Chief of Staff Rose Wachuka gace Kiprugut Team Kenya's training shoes, a jacket and commemorative plaque in honour of his achievements. Wachuka said they plan to honour him at a national holiday and engage the Kericho County Government over the family's request.

Wachuka, who delivered Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed's goodwill message, said that it's Kiprugut's exploits that launched Kenya's hunt for medals at the Olympics.

"We now have 103 medals that comprise 31 gold, 38 silver and 34 bronze since your enviable performance in 1964," said Wachuka.

Mutuku said that the Olympics-bound Team Kenya will be reflecting on Kiprugut's achievement as it heads back to Tokyo after 57 years for the Olympics.

The witty Kiprugut left the visitors, who included AK President Jack Tuwei, in stitches with his humour as he took them on a journey through some of his memorable Olympic and Commonwealth Games moments.

"I told myself that I would rather die on the track and give Black Africa its first medal. I did that even after some Jamaican athlete tried to play dirty by elbowing me," said Kiprugut.

The late Peter Snell from New Zealand won gold in Olympic record time of 1:45.1, Canadian William Crothers got silver in 1:45.6 andKiprugut beat Jamaican George Kerr, who tried to elbow him for bronze in a photo-finish time of 1:45.9.

"I was carried shoulder high from the plane by the Asian-dominated national hockey team that finished sixth overall," said Kiprugut, who also won 880 yards bronze at the 1966 Kingston Commonwealth Games. "God was with me."

Kiprugut prayed for Kenya's team to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. "Go out and conquer... believe in your ability and you will succeed," said Kiprugut.

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