Kenyan track legend Ben Jipcho was laid to rest at his home in Kiswai, Trans Nzoia county in an emotional service that saw one woman tear into the government for neglecting athletes.
Present at the ceremony were several dignitaries including Deputy President William Ruto and Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka, as well as National Olympics Committee of Kenya (NOCK) President Paul Tergat and athletes from Jipcho's era.
Rose 'Tata' Muya, a retired athlete, noted that she had been involved in efforts to help several legendary sportsmen who had either fallen into poverty or illness, including former prolific footballers Peter Dawo and the late Joe Kadenge in addition to the now departed Jipcho.
She demanded that the government honor its sports heroes by implementing a comprehensive medical insurance cover, declaring that she was done helping sportsmen and women on their deathbeds.Athlete Ben Jipcho's casket pictured at his funeral in Trans Nzoia County on Friday, July 31Daily Nation
"Speaker Lusaka, you're here. Those in Parliament, when you want to increase your salaries you do it in one day, you can even do it at night.
"As athletes we want the Heroes and Heroines Council to be implemented for us to be given medical cover. Will we always be helping people when they're heading to the grave? Is the government poor? We carried this flag and brought medals to this country," Muya asserted.
She went on to advise athletes to unite to demand that the government accord them the respect they deserve.
"We don't want that nonsense anymore. If I die without you people helping me, I promise I will come out of that casket and resurrect. So on behalf of all athletes in Kenya, let us unite," Muya warned, rallying the crowd.
In his speech, DP Ruto admitted that it was time for the Ministry of Sports to draft a plan to take care of heroes from past generations.
"The old men, the Kipchoge Keinos suffered in their time because we didn't have a scheme to help athletes but now we have one. For every gold medal, an athlete gets a million shillings from the government.
"An athlete gets Ksh500,000 for Silver and Ksh250,000 for Bronze. Maybe it is time for us to come up with a plan for those who came before us and built the foundation," he stated.
Unfortunately, the story of Kenyan sports heroes, once celebrated in Kenya and beyond, languishing in poverty has become all too common.
Heart-breaking stories that have hit the headlines in recent years include those of boxer Conjestina Achieng' and footballer Peter Dawo among several others.
The condition is compounded by factors including drug use, depression and mental illness.
Federations, teams and leagues in the country have also struggled under the weight of lack of investment in sports coupled with cases of corruption and mismanagement of funds.
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