What you need to know:
- Felix Kipruto, Tunis World Para-Athletics Grand Prix, William Kiprotich Kemei, Dubai World Para-Athletics Grand Prix, Africa Para Games, Henry Kirwa, Abraham Tarbei, World Para Athletics Championships, National Paralympics team, Paris World Para-Athletics Grand Prix
- Kipruto, 29, was over the moon for emerging second in the men’s 1500m - T46 final, of the Tunis competition, where Kenya dominated by winning 16 medals
- Apart from booking a ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, the achievement put him on course to realising his dream – following in the footsteps of his late father by winning a medal at a global event
When the triumphant Kenya national paralympics team jetted back home on March 22 from Tunisia, where they had competed in the Tunis World Para-Athletics Grand Prix, little known Felix Kipruto stood out amongst his colleagues.
His smile was conspicuously broader than the rest, constantly displaying the silver medal he had won in the competition, to the few journalists, who had braved the chilly morning weather, to cover the team’s arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.
Kipruto, 29, was over the moon for emerging second in the men’s 1,500m - T46 final, of the Tunis competition, where Kenya dominated by winning 16 medals (two gold medals, six silver and eight bronze).
Apart from booking a ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, the achievement put him on course to realising his dream – following in the footsteps of his late father by winning a medal at a global event.
Kipruto is the son of the late William Kiprotich Kemei, who won gold in the men’s 1,500m at the 1991 All Africa Games in Egypt.
Kemei, who died in December 2007, at the age of 38 is also remembered for the resounding victory in the mile race at the 1992 Golden League meeting in Berlin, where he defeated the then 1,500m champion Noureddine Morceli.
In that race, Kemei won in three minutes and 48 seconds, while Morceli clocked 3:48.
“My father was a great runner and I am very happy to follow in his footsteps. I feel winning a medal, especially gold in Tokyo will make him happy in his grave,” said Kipruto.
In the Tunis World Para-Athletics Grand Prix, which was the fourth Tokyo 2020 Paralympics qualifiers that Kipruto competed in, he emerged second in the men’s 1500m – T46 in four minutes and three seconds.
Previously in February, Kipruto led other Kenyans - Wesley Kemei and Stanley Kipkoech in sweeping all the three podium places in the Dubai World Para-Athletics Grand Prix. They timed 4:03.34, 4:04.43 and 4:05.92 respectively.
In 2020 and 2019, Kipruto featured in the two Africa Para Games held in Morocco, finishing fourth and third respectively.
“It is such a good feeling to see your dream come true. My prayer is that the games (Tokyo 2020 Paralympics) will continue as planned. I am training hard and I believe I have the potential to win a medal in the competition in honour of my country and late father,” said the first born in a family of five (two boys and three girls).
While Kipruto was born normal, his life took a turn in 2003 after he fell from a tree. He fractured his right arm three times in the freak accident injuring his right lung in the process.
He spent more than one month in hospital, and later sought for specialised treatment for the recurring pain he was feeling in his right lung.
Even still, Kipruto - who was then a fast rising star for Nandi's Baraton Primary School in inter-school games - could neither stretch nor bend his arm forcing him to quit athletics.
It is until 2014 that he resumed athletics after being motivated by the stories of two Paralympians - Henry Kirwa and Abraham Tarbei who were conquering various races.
“I never imagined that I would go back to athletics. It happened by accident that I came across this old newspaper with an article of Henry Kirwa and Abraham Tarbei’s achievements. I wanted to be like them and started practising again,” recalled the father of one.
Kirwa, 47, starred in the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, China winning gold medals in the men’s 1500m -13, 5000m -13 and 10000m – T12 events. For Tarbei, he bagged gold medals in men’s 1500m-T46 and 5000m-T46 in the same competition.
The 2015 national trials at Nyayo National Stadium for All Africa Games in Congo was Kipruto’s first attempt to represent Kenya at an international competition.
But because he had not prepared well, he finished fourth. In the 2017 trials for the World Para Athletics Championships in London, he emerged third but failed to travel with the team for the assignment since he did not have a passport.
With the Paris World Para-Athletics Grand Prix slated for April 30 to May 9 fast approaching, Kpruto has intensified his training in Nandi as he aims for gold.
“Winning a gold medal in Paris will be a good build up for me ahead of the Paralympics. I am also aiming at lowering my time to four minutes and below, to increase my chances of winning in Tokyo," he said.
The national paralympics team is expected to report to camp later this month to prepare for the Paris event.