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Kiprugut Chumo: Why the Shujaa is Being Honored After 59 Years

Wilson Kiprugut Chumo, on Friday, October 20, was honored as a hero by the President, who named a stadium after him. This happened during Kenya’s 60th Mashujaa Day Celebrations, a day that Kenyans set aside to celebrate the heroes and legends of the country.


The news was received wholly by Kenyans especially since the late Kiprugut Chumo was the first Kenyan to win an Olympic medal. Kiprugut Chumo won his first Olympic medal in 1964 at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where he took bronze in the 800-meter race. 59 years later, and almost a year after his death, Kiprugut Chumo had a stadium in his hometown Kericho named after him.

A picture of younger Kiprugut Chumo.
A picture of younger Kiprugut Chumo. Photo| Wikimedia

President William Ruto made the announcement at Kericho Green Stadium in a bid to celebrate the departed legend. Kericho Green Stadium was officially opened for use on June 20, 2019, during Kericho’s first governor, Prof Paul Chepkwony’s regime. Since its launch, the stadium has been more of a field and less of a stadium until a few days ago. According to reports, approximately Ksh. 110 million went into the reconstruction of the now Kiprugut Chumo Stadium in preparation for Mashujaa Day celebrations.

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After the death of Wilson Kiprugut, a number of athletes, politicians, and family members pushed for the national honoring of the legend. Chumo passed away on November 01, 2022, at the age of 84 after a long illness. His funeral ceremony attracted key dignitaries from the sports sector, all of whom gave no reasons why the champion died with no national recognition.

Nonetheless, promises were made to have the stadium renamed after him and Kenya is glad that the promise has been fulfilled. Earlier on, suggestions had been made to have Wilson Airport renamed after Kiprugut Chumo. However, it was much more befitting that a stadium was renamed after him. The late champion was buried at his Kipcheboi home in Kericho, a funeral that pushed Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba into attendance.

Kiprugut Chumo: Why the Shujaa is Being Honored After 59 Years.
Kiprugut Chumo: Why the Shujaa is Being Honored After 59 Years. Photo| Courtesy

During his speech at the funeral, Namwamba termed Wilson Kiprugut a mentor and trendsetter.

“He’s Kenya’s biblical John the Baptist of the athletics family. To rephrase the words of Winston Churchill, much is owned by so many of us to the achievement of Kiprugut, who set our reputation as an athletics powerhouse.”

Ababu Namwamba

Additionally, the Cabinet Secretary expressed his disappointment in how Kenya treats her champions.

“This country owes her athletes a better treatment because they are our heroes and have brought to us fame internationally. I regret that Kiprugut died without a single national honour or medal. Our athletes deserve such accolades. We need to have a state-of-the-art stadium in Kericho to remember our hero, Kiprugut. Kericho Green Stadium is a sham and the Kapkatet Stadium is also an embarrassment. He deserves a state-of-the-art sports centre to be named after him.”

Ababu Namwamba

After his speech, Namwamba requested Kericho County officials to identify a location in which a facility to honor Kiprugut would be set up. However, Kericho County Governor Erick Mutai insisted on revamping the shabby Kericho Green Stadium and naming it after Kiprugut Chumo.

In 2010, Wilson Kiprugut was named the Sports Personality of the Year. Aside from that, the champion acted as a mentor to young athletes. Kiprugut also served his country at the military level after he was recruited into the army around 1958. He gradually rose to the rank of Sergeant during his prime and by the time of his retirement from the army in 1974, Chumo was a fitness instructor.

Throughout the years, Kiprugut Chumo maintained close companionship with fellow legend Kipchoge Keino. After Kipurgut’s death, Kip Keino mourned him as a true friend. The two athletes go way back to 1968 when they both participated in the Mexico City Olympic Games. In the championship, Kipchoge bagged a gold medal in the 1500 meter while Kiprugut bagged a silver medal in the 800 meter race.

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The legend Kiprugut Chumo set the stage for Kenya’s reputation as a world leader in Olympic championships. He selflessly made the entire country proud on the global stage and his honor, although well deserved, comes late. Nevertheless, justice delayed is not justice denied. The Kenyan government should do a better job of honoring the true legends and heroes of this country.

Moreover, The Wilson Kiprugut arap Chumo Stadium should serve as a reminder that a hero is a hero. It should not always take one to have a political background or history to be honored in this country. Let us normalize honoring revolutionary athletes, chefs, artists, and even scholars because heroes are made of more.


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