What you need to know:
- Tuwei confirmed that Kiprugut collapsed in his Kericho home at about mid-day on Tuesday and was rushed to Kericho’s Siloam Hospital where he passed on shortly afterwards.
The world of athletics paid glowing tribute to Africa’s Olympic Games pioneer medallist, the late Wilson Kiprugut Chumo, with renewed calls to have the Kericho Green Stadium named after the legendary middle distance athlete.
Legendary Olympians Kipchoge Keino and Paul Tergat led the sporting fraternity in immortalising Kiprugut, saying that his 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games inspired Kenyan sportsmen and women to victories.
Athletics Kenya president Jack Tuwei, who broke the sad news of Kiprugut’s final bow, said the legendary athlete will forever have a special place in the country‘s sporting history.
Tuwei confirmed that Kiprugut collapsed in his Kericho home at about mid-day on Tuesday and was rushed to Kericho’s Siloam Hospital where he passed on shortly afterwards.
“This is a huge loss to the country and to the sport of athletics,” Tuwei told Nation Sport.
Kiprugut died at around 1.30pm while undergoing treatment at Siloam hospital in Kericho town according to family members.
“He developed breathing problems as we were preparing him to take his lunch-time meal and I had to rush him to hospital for emergency treatment,” Gideon Kipngeno, his youngest son told Nation Sport.
Other legends to eulogise Kiprugut as a true patriot were Ezekiel Nyamao and Charles Asati, who are the only surviving members of the memorable 4x400m relay team that won gold at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Athletics Kenya regional chairmen; Barnaba Korir (Nairobi), Peter Angwenyi (Nyanza South) and David Miano (Central) described Kiprugut as a great athlete, coach and mentor of many athletes in the country.
Kiprugut won Africa her first medal at the Summer Games at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, a bronze in 800 metres, setting the stage for the current crop of athletes to win more medals.
The late Peter Snell from New Zealand won gold in an Olympic record time of 1:45.1 with Canadian William Crothers going for silver in 1:45.6.
Kiprugut beat Jamaican George Kerr, who tried to elbow him for bronze in a photo-finish time of 1:45.9.
Chumo’s last international outing was the 1968 Summer Olympics, where claimed silver in the 800m in 1:44.57 after losing the battle to Australian Ralph Doubell in the last metres after a powerful front running show.
Doubell won in a World Record time of 1:44.40.
Keino once again urged the national government to rename Kericho Green Stadium after the fallen athletics legend.
Kipchoge said Kiprugut, who was his teammate at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, should be immortalised for the upcoming generation to learn from his achievements.
“During our days we used to train with him at high altitude areas like Nyahururu, Nakuru, Ngong and Nyeri, and we would perform well in various competitions," Keino said.
“Kiprugut managed to bag a bronze medal in the 800m while I was in fifth place in the 5,000m race and 10th in the 1,500m at 1964 Tokyo Olympics,“ Keino recalled with nostalgia.
“His performance inspired me to go back and train hard and it's no wonder I won gold in 1,500m and silver in 5,000m at the subsequent 1968 Mexico City Olympics,” added Keino.
Tergat, the National Olympic Committee (NOC-K) president, said that Kiprugut’s trailblazing performances at the 1964 and 1968 Olympic Games opened the way for the country’s medals haul at the Olympic Summer Games.
Tergat said that Kiprugut took his time to pray and wish Team Kenya best of luck at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. “Go out and conquer… I believe in your ability and you will succeed," he said at the time.
Kenya went on to claim 10 medals from the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games; four gold, four silver and two bronze for their total haul of 113 medals - 35 gold, 42 silver and 36 bronze - since Kiprugut’s enviable performance in 1964 Tokyo.
“Kiprugut established the rich tradition and status within the Olympic Movement of Kenya’s athletic and sporting prowess,” said Tergat, adding that he learnt with profound sorrow of his death.
“His death is even more painful considering that it was only recently during the extraordinary Olympics celebrations in Tokyo where he earned his Olympic medal. We really celebrated the nostalgic moments,” explained Tergat.
As the country celebrates Kiprugut, Tergat noted with pride that his legacy is immortalised as our athletes continue the winning tradition he established.
"We shall always fall back to when it started when our athletes won medals at the Olympics," said Tergat, noting that Chumo claimed medals for Kenya when nobody anticipated.
“We join the family and the rest of the sporting fraternity in mourning this great athlete and pray for God’s comfort and strength to bear, the loss,” said Tergat, the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympics 10,000m silver medallist.
“It is shocking to hear the passing on of a good friend who did a lot for the country during his youthful age. I send my personal condolences and those of pioneer athletes to the family, friends and relatives of the late,” said Asati, who recalled how they worked together with Kiprugut as soldiers while at Nanyuki Barracks.
“He was a humble and disciplined soldier at Nanyuki Barracks. He was a driver but we trained together,'' said Asati while Nyamao recalled how they trained together ahead of various competitions.
“We trained together alongside Robert Ouko, Asati, Julius Sang and Dan Omwanza. I will miss him dearly. May his soul rest in peace,” mourned Nyamao.
Kiprugut embraced athletics as a schoolboy at the Kapchebor village in Ainamoi constituency, Kericho County where it didn’t take long before he participated in his maiden event at the 1958 East African Championships.
It’s at the regional event that his talent was noticed and it didn't take long before Kenya Defence Forces fished him out to their ranks.
He would make his international debut at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games where he didn’t go past the heats of the 440 yards and finished fifth in the 4x440 yards relay, alongside Kimaru Songok, Peter Francis, and Seraphino Antao.
Kiprugut would grace the inaugural 1965 All-Africa Games to capture the 400m and 800m titles, before participating at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, where he took silver in the 880 yards.
During the visit by AK and NOC-K officials in June last year, the family of Wilson Kiprugut appealed for the government to rename the Kericho Green Stadium after the legendary athlete.
Reports by Ayumba Ayodi, Benson Ayienda, Vitalis Kimutai and Bernard Rotich