Ailing Jipcho’s distress call well received by colleagues

Thursday, September 5th, 2019 00:00 |
1972 Munich Olympics 3,000m steeplechase silver medallist Ben Jipcho at a Nairobi hotel yesterday. The athletics legend has been flown by his colleagues to Nairobi for treatment after being diagnosed with cancer last year. Photo/PD/RODGERS NDEGWA

Kenya’s Olympics legend Ben Jipcho recalls with nostalgia a celebratory telegram message he received from former Nigerian president General Yakubu Gowon after he had just won two gold medals during the second All African Games in Lagos.

“You are the real son of Africa,” That was the message that Jipcho, with a fading smile, received after the 1973 games that had seen him win gold in the 3,000m steeplechase, in a new world record, and another gold in 5,000m.

The 76-year-old 1972 Olympics silver medallist in 3,000m steeplechase describes himself as a man in his sunset days. His old age has been compounded by sickness as he battles prostate cancer. 

The former Kenya Prisons Service Chief Inspector, who resides in Mount Elgon, has been battling the disease since it was diagnosed in May 2018.

He was moved to Nairobi early this week by his colleagues, led by National Heroes Council coordinator Rose Tata Muya and 1987 world marathon champion Douglas Wakiihuri and a number of other well-wishers, under the newly-launched theme Celebrating a Legend Forever. 

Wakiihuri and Muya have been influential in getting accommodation as well as medical attention for Jipcho free of charge.

“It is by the grace of God that I am alive today. My condition worsened so fast that it resulted in urinary retention by blocking the normal urine flow,” recalls the athlete, who won two gold medals and one bronze in three events during the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“I want to thank all those who have sacrificed to have me get medication, Strand hotel for their free accommodation and meals, Dr Ravi Sharma, for his free tests and medication, Athletics Kenya NEC member Barnabas Korir as well as the other legends, Wakiihuri and Muya for reaching out,” added Jipcho, a trained teacher, who retired as an inspector of schools in 1992. 

The challenges of Jipcho comes barely a week after another Olympic champion Robert Ouko was laid to rest after succumbing to diabetes, amid claims of neglect from the government.

Jipcho, who holds over 20 major global medals among them eight gold, says the country must learn to engage their sportsmen and women.

“There are claims that there is financial support that has been approved by President Uhuru Kenyatta which is now at the Ministry of Sports. I hope those funds can be released to assist many more legends like myself who are in dire straits,” said  Jipcho.

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