Stories

SPORT

The story of Kiprogut, first legend of kenyan athletic

in 1964 in Tokyo he won the first olympic medal

09-06-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo

"My school was 15 km away from the village where I lived. I only had two options: to go and come back in a hurry, to get as much time as possible to sleep and help my parents at home, or to give up studying and look after the cows for the rest of my life.
This is Wilson Kiprugut, an 83-year-old Kenyan from Kericho, who lives in a modest cottage and still cultivates his vegetable garden in the middle of the beautiful tea hills with his wife Ruth, with whom he is celebrating 60 years of marriage this year. 
Before the independence of his country, and before going down in history, a history that is increasingly capable of forgetting its heroes who were once really heroes, even the sporting ones.
Wilson Kiprugut's story is that of the first Kenyan athlete to win a medal at the Olympics, the first of a total of 103 podiums won by his compatriots.
It was 1964 and the Olympics were being held in Tokyo, where they will be returning in a few days' time, with the Kenyan Olympic team reaching, for the first time, one hundred athletes among men and women.
Before that unforgettable 29 October 1964, Wilson had studied at the Kapteswoa Intermediate School, which in addition to a secondary school leaving certificate meant four years of involuntary 30-kilometre-a-day training. Everyone in the village had realised that the boy was a cut above the rest and sent him to the East African championships in 1958. They sent him to the East African Championships in 1958. They put him to run the 400 metres, which is probably why he did not win, as his speed and endurance were better suited to the 800 metres. His good performances in the 400 and finally in his favourite distance earned him a place in the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia. He was the third choice, but had two older and more experienced teammates ahead of him, who in fact made the 400 final while Kiprugut was eliminated.
These were difficult times, Kenya was on the way to independence a year later and sport was beginning to be seen as a way out.
And so in 1964 Wilson got his chance to participate in the first Olympic Games with the flag of his country. He flew to Tokyo with his relay teammates: Kimaru Songoko, Peter Francis and Serafino Antao. Kimaru is the strongest and could probably have won the gold, but he gets injured before competing in the 400. So the young Kirugut has to run for him too, but he is used to it, since his school days. The short distance, as we said, is not his strong point, but in the 800 metres he came third. That's podium, that's a medal!
Above all, it's an incredible party in Nairobi and Kericho. People in the streets with flags, despite the fact that very few had been able to follow his historic ride on television. For the rest of the world, his gazelle-like elegance for the first time shows everyone what the future of running and athletics will be.
His medal still hangs in his bedroom. Wilson considers it more important than the silver he would win four years later in Mexico City. He ran there as no one had ever done before. No one, except for a mad Australian, Ralph Doubell, who managed to keep up with him and overtake him in the final straight. He had to set a new world record, 1.44'.3'', to beat him. Two tenths of a second less than the Kenyan gazelle, whose continental record would stand for years.
After other triumphs at pan-African level, Wilson Kiprogut retired from the army with the rank of sergeant, after a 15-year career of satisfaction for himself and his young nation.
But not enough money, the money in athletics would come a few years later and if now Kipchoge Keino, his compatriot the world record holder in the marathon is a millionaire, Wilson and his wife Ruth had to earn "that piece of land that their heart had to cultivate" as Lucio Dalla would have sung.
But Kiprogut never backed down and managed to get himself hired by a multinational company as a controller on the tea plantations not far from his home.
Kipchoge has visited him a few times, some other sportsman occasionally remembers to celebrate him and in Tokyo 2021 his ears will certainly be ringing.
"Mzee, the old man, is still fit," say his children, none of whom followed in his footsteps, nor did he ever force them to do so. He was not an unknown soldier, but a legend with an ancient humility and tenacity born of sacrifice and the desire to grow and improve together with his people, which it is right to celebrate.

TAGS: atletica kenyacorsa kenyasport kenyamito kenyaleggenda kenya

The Watamu Sport Festival starts today from Turtle Bay beach and includes running, mountain...

READ ALL THE ARTICLE

by Freddie del Curatolo

An event built "in a laboratory" for the greatest champions of our time able to break down first one...

READ ALL THE ARTICLE

This is not the first time that the world of sport has seen an intertwining between Italy and Kenya. It...

READ THE ARTICLE

French sportswear multinational Decathlon is ready to land in Kenya.
Next year he will open his first retail shop in Nairobi, counting on the development of the capital and the possibility of reaching the whole country through the online shop...

READ ALL THE REVIEW

KENYA STORIES

The travelling library of Kenya

Culture moves by camel

by Freddie del Curatolo

It 's true, as he wrote Ryszard Kapuscinski, one of the most precise thinkers and evocative of Africa, the story, the Black Continent, is transmitted orally and legend becomes myth, but the culture, prose and literature need of paper, of pages,...

READ ALL

by Freddie del Curatolo

by redazione

I've always wanted to run, to run away.
Not so...

READ THE STORY

by redazione

Starting next week, the high-speed train line between Nairobi and Mombasa will have an additional route.
The express service will start on...

READ ALL THE REVIEW

Among the many pleasures and reasons for well-being that holidaying in Kenya can inspire, sport is...

READ THE ARTICLE

by redazione

It will be Italy versus Kenya, with an American third wheel, the most exciting 100 meter race on...

READ THE ARTICLE

Today's singing of Kenya, or rather "iggo id ayneK led otnaC lI", belongs to the oddities of the equator, those ...

According to experts, this is the longest-lived marathon runner in the world, but ...

READ ALL THE ARTICLE

by Freddie del Curatolo