Friday’s Safaricom Sports Personality of the Year (Soya) Awards gala night will induct yet another top Kenyan into the country’s sports Hall of Fame.
Among the frontrunners for the process are motorsports giant Shekhar Mehta, a five-times Safari Rally winner, football legend Joe “JJ” Masiga and multiple track world record holder, Henry Rono.
Also on the short-list is Kenya’s first ever track medallist, Wilson Kiprugut Chumo.
Kericho-based Chumo, who provided the template for latter day athletes to put Kenya in global focus, has just turned 70 but still stands straight and is as lively as ever.
“If not for the healthy living I adopted from my youthful days, I would be long dead. Nearly all my colleagues are dead,” Chumo said in an interview on his Kericho farm where he enthusiastically tends his maize farm and looks after dairy cows.
Chumo, Kenya’s first ever Olympic medallist, attributes his sterling performance to “skills stolen from a Canadian trainer before Kenya’s independence.”
Until then, he recalls, the Kenya team had been trailing opponents largely due to over-training by unqualified coaches and lack of skills.
“At that time every good thing belonged to whites and the best coaches were attached to Europeans. Our black side was poorly coached,” he said adding: “I copied what a Canadian trainer was instructing some athletes and perfected the skills until I emerged as a winner.”
Kiprugut, as many of his peers call him, says he is not saddened much by the lack of recognition.
“As a Christian, I thank God for what he has done to me until this moment. My good health, my family and my children. Such happiness is rare,” he says.
The simple hero lives on his five-acre ancestral land overlooking vast multinational tea companies’ plantations at near the Kipsigis Girls High School on the outskirts of Kericho town.
He became the first Kenyan and African to win a medal when he won a bronze in the 800 metres at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.