Running stars join mourners at Ugandan athlete Kiplagat’s funeralThu, 11 Jan 2024 18:15:06 GMT

Top Kenyan and Ugandan athletes were among the mourners at the funeral in Kenya on Thursday of Ugandan Olympic distance runner Benjamin Kiplagat.The Kenyan-born 34-year-old, who specialised in the 3,000m steeplechase, was found dead with a stab wound to his neck near the Rift Valley town of Eldoret on December 31, and two men are in custody accused of his murder.Kiplagat’s casket was transported in a convoy from Eldoret to his ancestral home of Kamendi, about 60 kilometres (40 miles) away.Kenya’s two-time Olympic marathon champion and former world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, Olympic and world 1,500m champion Faith Kipyegon and former three-time world 3000m steeplechase champion and world record holder Moses Kiptanui attended the funeral.”This death is very painful,” Kiptanui, who helped coach Kiplagat in the early days of his running career, said at the ceremony.”All of us have come here to mourn a hero — somebody who gave his life to run and make the two countries known — especially the country of Uganda.”Top Ugandan athletics officials and runners also paid tribute to Kiplagat, who competed for the country at three Olympic Games and six World Championships.- ‘Keep losing our heroes’ -“He broke a record that had stood for 30 years and for that we shall always remember… he did something historical,” said Ugandan athletics coach Aggrey Ogol.He was referring to Kiplagat’s feat in 2007 when he shaved more than eight seconds off the Ugandan national 3,000m steeplechase record set in 1977.Uganda’s world 5,000m and 10,000m record holder Joshua Cheptegei urged Kenyan police to strengthen security around athletes who train in the Eldoret area, a renowned high-altitude training hub.”We are saying enough is enough. We’ve lost a lot of our colleagues. I think you should have a discussion to see how the law can deal with these issues. We cannot keep losing our heroes.”Kiplagat’s death followed the killing in October 2021 of Kenyan distance running star Agnes Tirop who was found stabbed to death at the age of 25 in her home at Iten, near Eldoret.Her husband Ibrahim Rotich went on trial for her murder in November last year. He has denied the charge against him and was freed on bail just before the trial opened.Last week, two suspects appeared in court over the killing of Kiplagat and were ordered detained for 21 days to enable police to continue their investigations.He leaves an expectant wife Viola and a 13-year-old daughter.