Athletics fraternity pays last respects to celebrated Koech

Kenya Defence Forces officers and other mourners during a burial of the late Major, Paul Kipsilgich Koech at his home in Kipsombe Village, Uasin Gishu County on September 11, 2018. Koech was a former world half marathon champion. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |

What you need to know:

  • Koech won the IAAF World Half Marathon in 1998
  • The late Koech died of brain tumour last week at Forces Memorial Hospital in Nairobi
  • He was buried in accordance with the Kenya Defence Forces traditions

Former World Half Marathon champion Major Paul Koech was laid to rest on Tuesday in a colourful ceremony at his home Kipsomba village in Soy Constituency, Uasin Gishu County.

Koech, a retired athlete and the vice chairman of the Kenya Defence Force Athletics Association who was based at Kahawa Barracks, was buried in accordance with the Kenya Defence Forces traditions.

A casket bearing his remains was lowered into the grave few minutes past 3pm, followed by a 21-gun salute.

The local athletics fraternity, led by Athletic Kenya (AK) vice President Paul Mutwii, described the late Koech as a hardworking man who loved his job.

“Koech helped a lot of athletes and he was active in our competitions organised in Nairobi. His legacy will live on,” said Mutwii.

In a message read on his behalf by Brigadier Daniel Pyaban from Kenya Defence Forces, President Uhuru Kenyatta termed the late Koech as a hardworking individual who loved his job passionately.

“I learnt of the officer’s death with shock and we have lost a hardworking and dedicated servant who loved his job,” Uhuru said in his message.

The late Koech died of brain tumour last week at Forces Memorial Hospital in Nairobi.

Koech, who was co-opted into Athletics Kenya Executive Committee, will be remembered for his sterling performance in athletics where he left a mark in the late 90's.

During the 1998 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Koech bagged silver medal behind his compatriot Paul Tergat who won the race in Amorebieta, Spain.

It was also sweet victory for Koech the same year in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championship where he bagged gold after clocking 1min, 0.01 seconds in Zurich, Switzerland.

He later graduated to marathon races where he clocked a personal best of 2:07:07 in 2003 Chicago Marathon.

During Tuesday's burial ceremony, speakers praised the former athlete who put Kenya on the global map in athletics.

Leaders from the area, among them Hezekiah Bundotich Kiprotich aka Buzeki, challenged the government to recognize athletes who have flown Kenya’s flag high across the world.

"Athletes have always done the country proud but there is little done to them by the government. There is need for a kitty that will reward athletes in a special way when they perform well across the globe," said Buzeki.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany asked local athletics officials to desist from misappropriating money meant for athletes.

"I want to ask athletics officials to desist from taking advantage of athletes who sacrifice a lot during training. We must ensure they get what is meant for them from the sponsors," he said.