NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 7 – Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba has promised that the government will do more to honour two-time Olympic champion Kipchoge Keino.
Namwamba admitted that the country needs to treasure and enjoy the best of the athletics legend while he is still alive.
“I honour you very much as you know. In fact, we have even asked the government to honour you more while you are still alive. It is always good to honour each other while still breathing. We were with you last month when we buried your great friend…Wilson Kiprugut who was the first Kenyan to win an Olympic medal in Tokyo in 1964,” Namwamba said.
He added: “We buried him without a single national honour. I have asked the government to honour him post-houmous. That is the last person that I will honour post-houmous. I want us to honour this great man here (Kip Keino) while he is with us. I want all Kenyan athletes to be honoured while they are still breathing so they can celebrate and rejoice.”
Kipchoge opened the pathway for Kenya’s dominance of the middle and long-distance races, building up to the country’s reputation as an athletics powerhouse.
He came into world limelight at the 1965 All-Africa Games in Brazzaville, Congo when he clinched two gold (1500m and 5000m), following it up with a world record of 13:24.2 in the men’s 5000m, later in the year.
However, Kenya’s longstanding stature as an athletics giant has come under threat with the emergence of other nations as well as the doping menace that has engulfed some of its top athletes.
Just last week, the country was breathing a collective sigh of relief after a let-off from the World Athletics, which had been mulling a ban on Kenya for the increasing cases of doping among its runners.
Speaking on the issue, the CS appealed to Kipchoge as well as other retired athletes to take the lead in the war against this vice.
“Kipchoge…please, I am asking you to join in the war. All of you, including Pamela (Jelimo) and Hellen (Obiri)…you have achieved so much. Your voice in this issue is so strong. Kipchoge…you started it all (Kenya’s dominance of athletics) and God has preserved you to date. I am asking you to be at the forefront of this war,” Namwamba appealed.
He was speaking at the Nairobi National Museum on Wednesday during a medal reallocation ceremony for 2008 Olympics 800m champion Pamela Jelimo.
Jelimo was awarded a bronze medal for her fourth (now third) place finish at the 2012 London Olympics following the discovery that the winner of the race, Mariya Savinova, had used a banned substance.
The Russian was consequently stripped of her gold medal, which was awarded to South African Caster Semenya.
The CS used the opportunity to further highlight the perils of doping.
“It is unfortunate that Pamela had to wait 10 years to get justice. She was telling me that between then and now, she has had three kids. I remember the race she ran at the Beijing Olympics…at just 18, bursting onto the scene and winning gold. She worked hard to get to where she is and to imagine that she had to wait 10 years because of someone who cheated their way to victory,” Namwamba said.
Speaking at the same occasion, National Olympic Committee of Kenya president Paul Tergat similarly asked retired athletes to work together in championing for a clean sport.
“Without athletics, I wouldn’t have received the opportunities that enabled me to be who I am today. Doping denies hardworking athletes such wonderful opportunities to change their lives. We are going to do everything to ensure a clean sport…we ask you all to join us in championing for a clean sport,” Tergat, a five-time world cross country champion, said.