Kip Keino, Tergat greatness sinks home in scary Uber ride


Athletics legend Kipchoge Keino, chairman of the Kenyan Olympic Committee, lifts the Olympic Laurel Trophy ...
Athletics legend Kipchoge Keino, chairman of the Kenyan Olympic Committee, lifts the Olympic Laurel Trophy at the end of the Opening Ceremony. PHOTO/Getty

The saying a prophet is never truly honoured at home rings true for Kenyan athletes who never receive as much rewards as they would if they were running under the colours of other nations.

I thought about this on a chilly evening in Rio-de-Janeiro as my cameraman Brian Mutua and I hailed an Uber for the journey back to our hotel.

Uber, one of the more dominant taxi companies here, has ride sharing as a cheaper option so we opted for that since we knew our long journey home would be very expensive.

Ten minutes later we stopped outside a restaurant and picked up 27-year-old Felipe Melo, not the Inter Milan and Selacao international, but his namesake who runs a tour company that takes tourists to East Asia.

He was a very curious young man and soon started asking questions about where we came from. Once he discovered that we came from Kenya he immediately asked about Paul Tergat.

Now he had caught our interest. I was sitting on the co-driver’s seat so I turned around and asked him how he knew Tergat.

“When I was a kid growing up, Brazil’ had a marathon on New Year’s eve in Rio De Janeiro and Tergat won it at least four times,” he replied with admiration.

In his eyes Tergat was and still is truly a living legend. He immediately wanted to know what happened to the former world marathon record holder and five-time World Cross champion.

I informed him the 2005 New York Marathon winner who lost the title the next year to Brazil Marilson Gomes was in Brazil as a member of the International Olympics Committee.

I shared some of Tergat’s other exploits including founding Kenya’s version of the sports Grammys, the Sport Personality of the Year Awards during the hour-long journey that afforded plenty of time for chit chat.

We also needed to remain keen because our driver already had two near misses with the pavement and needed close supervision before he dispatched us to the other side before our time.

Back to the story at hand. Felipe then asked me about our athlete who had received an award during the opening ceremony, someone called Kip.

“Yes that is our head of the National Olympic Committee Kipchoge Keino who is a two time Olympics champion,” I replied with pride.

Felipe could not believe that we had two living legends who call Kenya home. Kipchoge’s award has had a great impact on Brazilians and several of them have already asked me to tell them more about our 76 year-old Mexico 1968 and Munich 1972 men 1500m and 3000m steeplechase icon.

Now by this time I was getting rather tired of talking because the effects of jet-lag were still very fresh in my system but Felipe’s energy levels were at an all time high so I had to indulge him.

Soon we digressed to movies and Felipe told me that he had watched a movie about a person called Maruge.

Another surprise indeed as I told him that Mzee Kimani Maruge was a Kenyan who holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest person to start primary school.

He then confessed; “I love African films so much. They are very inspiring. I watch them on Netflix. I have watched another one about refugee brothers trying to move to another country and also one about malaria and how bad it is in Africa.”

At this point our taxi driver who knew little English but really wanted to join the conversation turned around and asked, “Is there Uber in Kenya?”

“Of course,” I replied.

However, he could not understand any word I told him so Filipe had to translate before the driver grinned in appreciation.

It highlighted one of the biggest problems we have encountered here in Rio that is communication, but that is spared for my next chronicle.

For now, we get to our hotel in one piece, grateful to be alive after our cabbie almost got into two more accidents as we bid our new found friend Filipe goodbye.

As I lay my frightened heart and tired body down in our hotel I realized that the Kenyan brand is loved across the world and our running heroes and heroines market the country on our behalf almost for free.

We must do more to honour them and find a way to package Kenya as an attractive destination for sports tourism to attract all those that love Kip Keino,Tergat and other great sporting heroes from the 254.

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Story By Waihiga Mwaura
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