Ben Jipcho, the man who helped Kipchoge Keino to beat Jim Ryun at Mexico 1968 is dead
Ben Jipcho (center)

Ben Jipcho, the man who sacrificed his gold medal ambitions in 1500m by playing the rabbit for Kipchoge Keino at the 1972 Olympics, is dead.

According to one of his sons, the 77 year-old passed away at 3:08am on Friday at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Eldoret, where he has been receiving treatment.

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Ben Jipcho, the man who helped Kipchoge Keino to beat Jim Ryun at Mexico 1968 is dead

Jipcho rose to prominence at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico, West Germany, when he played the rabbit as Kipkeino beat American great James Ronald “Jim” Ryun in the 1,500m final.

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Jipcho, who hailed from Mt Elgon, was one of the foremost ‘rabbit’ – a tactical term in athletics in which a team often sacrifices a runner for sake of the team.

Lanky and powerful, Jipcho pulled Kip through a blistering 56-second first 400m in Munich Stadium during the 1968 Olympics leaving Jim Ryun gasping for breath, a devastating blow the American would not recover from. 

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Kipchoge ended up winning the 3,000mSC gold in 8:23.64 an Olympic record at the time, Jipcho (8:24.64) and Tapio Kantanen of Finland took bronze as Ryun faded away.

Jipcho would later go on to win 5000m race at the 1973 All-Africa Games.

He also won gold medal in 5000 m and 3000 m steeplechase, and bronze in 1500m at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand. Tributes have been pouring in from across the country following the passing of Jipcho. 
Reacting to the sad news, Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed tweeted;

 

 

Athletics great Kipchoge Keino also paid tribute to Jipcho saying he is gutted with the news of his demise.

 “Jipcho is a part of me. All my success was down to his competitiveness. We complemented each other and you could see his career also blossomed because of our partnership,” Kipchoge said.

“It is unfortunate he has left us. His place in the history of world athletics and Kenya is assured. May he rest in peace.”

“We struck an unbreakable bond after I brought him from Maseno and took him to Kiganjo for training. The togetherness became the bedrock of our success and indeed for Kenya as we put our country on the world map,” Kipchoge told Standard Sports.

“The Mexico Olympics will remain etched my mind for the rest of my life for the part Jipcho played as we struck gold when I beat Jim Ryun in1500m,” Kipchoge said.

“Jipcho was selfless, he paced the race for me and we finished Ryun. That was the greatest moment of patriotism. He could also have won, but he felt I had the better chance to win gold for Kenya, which did against a formidable American challenger at the time,” he said.

The athletics great said he noticed Jipcho’s talent and took him from Maseno to Kiganjo where they honed their talent. 

“I trained him and soon he quit teaching to join Kenya Prisons where his athletics talent blossomed. Thereafter, together, we started recruiting talent – Jipcho took many athletes to Kenya Prisons while I took others to the Kenya Police where I was serving,” Kipchoge said.

“It is unfortunate he has left us. His place in the history of world athletics and Kenya is assured. May he rest in peace,” Kipchoge said.

National Olympic Committee President, also an athletics great Paul Tergat said he was profoundly shocked by the news of Jipcho’s passing away while describing him as “a fearless warrior of his time.”

“It is tragic news, a sad day for sporting world,” Tergat said.

“On behalf of my family and the National Olympic Committee of Kenya, we pray for his family at this difficult time that they may get the strength to deal with this tragic news,” Tergat said.

Describing him as a pioneer of Kenya’s athletics tradition alongside other greats, Tergat said the country had lost an icon, “a true son of Kenya.”

“Off the track he was a brilliant and intelligent man, very engaging and you couldn’t ignore him because of his charisma,” he said.

“Together with Kipchoge Keino, Amos Biwott, Ben Kogo— these men set the bar so high that the younger generation has a responsibility to maintain and also take it to another level,”

“Jipcho overcame so many hurdles to emerge from the Sabaot people of Mt Elgon. Besides putting his people in the collective psyche of the Kenyan nation, he inspired generations of athletes including ourselves,” Tergat said.

“It pains me that after a strong foundation that Jipcho and his peers laid, there is a generation of athletes who are soiling the name of this country by way of violating anti-doping rules.

“It is disrespect of the highest order for the pioneers of athletics such as Kipchoge, Jipcho and so many others that athletes are found to have violated the whereabouts rules,”

“How can that be in this modern day, when you see them tweeting, facebooking and being online for 24hours then they miss tests? Come on, we cannot feign ignorance and want the world to believe us,” Tergat said.

“We must honour the work done by our athletics greats such as Jipcho, some of the athletes who ran barefoot, by running clean,” he said.

Born: 1 March 1943 (age 77 years), Mount Elgon District

Achievements:

Olympic Games

Silver medal: 1972 Munich 3000mSC

Commonwealth Games

Gold medal: 1974 Christchurch New Zealand  5000 m

Gold medal: 1974 Christchurch  3000mSC

Bronze: 1974 Christchurch 1500m

All-Africa Games

Gold: 1973 Lagos 5000m

Gold: 1973 Lagos 3000mSC

 

 

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