Athletics legend Benjamin Jipcho was laid to rest Friday at a burial ceremony dominated by pleas aimed at the Government to place the welfare of retired athletes higher up its priorities list.
Jipcho, whose athletic renown was tied partly to helping teammate Kipchoge Keino beat American favorite Jim Ryun at the Summer Olympics 1968 in Mexico City, died of cancer last week at a hospital in Eldoret. He was 77.
At the ceremony attended by Deputy President William Ruto, retired athletes in attendance took turns to decry neglect by the Government.
Led by Rose Tata Muya and Moses Kiptanui they urged the government to have the welfare of retired athletes on its priority list.
“We have to unite so that the Heroes and Heroines Fund can be implemented to enable us to benefit from medical cover and pension as well. Athletes also worked hard for the country,” said Muya who is also a member of the Heroes and Heroines Council.
“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 Kiptanui, a former world 3000m steeplechase champion.
Dr. Ruto reckoned the plight the veteran athletes are going through urging the ministry of Sports to focus on their welfare.
“I know our retired athletes suffered a lot because during their time the government did not have an elaborate plan toreward our sportsmen and women. However, we need to revisit our legends like Jipcho and Keino and the ministry of Sports has to find a way to address their plight,” said Ruto.
While addressing mourners, Keino recalled how Jipcho sacrificed for him to win a gold medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
“We started running with Jipcho barefoot and I will not forget how he helped me especially at the Olympic Games where I won a gold medal through his unselfish act,” said Keino
At the same time, the family of Jipcho eulogised their father as a hardworking man who despite his ailments he remained strong.
Jipcho was one of Kenya’s pioneering athletes who won a silver medal in the 3000m steeplechase at the 1972 Olympic Games later becoming a multiple Commonwealth and All African Games champion.