Connect with us

General News

Athletes back drive to bring legendary runner home



More by this Author

Elite athletes — including former world and Olympic 800 metres champions Janeth Jepkosgei and Wilfred Bungei — Thursday backed efforts to bring troubled Kenyan running legend Henry Rono back home from the USA where he is ailing and living an uncomfortable life.

Also, the Nandi County Government says it will help Rono return back home from the State of New Mexico where he’s been living for the last 32 years.

This follows a passionate appeal by the former multiple world record holder who told Nation Sport on Monday he was battling illness along with financial challenges and needed to come back to Kenya.

Nandi’s chief officer for sports Kennedy Tanui said Governor Stephen Sang has rallied support for the “Nandi warrior” who is best remembered for shattering four world records inside 81 days in 1978, a year in which he was voted the world’s best athlete.

He also won a combined four gold medals for Kenya at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton (in the 5,000 metres and steeplechase) and the All Africa Games the same year in Algiers (10,000m and steeplechase).

A former alcoholic, Rono, 66, claims people took advantage of his romance with the tipple to grab his assets, rendering him almost destitute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he has been reduced to security guard duties at the local airport.

“We will help facilitate Rono’s ticket as a county government, help him settle and also offer him a role in government, in an advisory capacity so that he can earn some money and get back on track,” Tanui told Nation Sport.

“It is great that Rono kicked away alcohol addiction as he can share his personal experiences to help upcoming athletes in Nandi County to avoid similar pitfalls,” Tanui added.

“The governor and county government will help Rono settle down because despite what happened in his life, he represented Kenya with distinction and you can never take away the world records that he set and gold medals he won for the country

“We all make mistakes and the important thing is to concede, reform and move on.”

On Wednesday, Olympic legend Kipchoge Keino also offered to help Rono get his ticket back home saying he had helped the now suffering legend settle down in USA on a track scholarship at the Washington State University, and didn’t want to see him suffer.

Athletics Kenya (AK) President Jack Tuwei also pledged his association’s willingness to support Rono, noting that he had received several requests from other athletes ready to help. Thomas Osano, a former elite athlete who was based in New Mexico before returning to Kenya in 1997, said Rono and many other athletes abroad needed help.

“I lived with Rono in New Mexico before I retired from professional running and came back home in 1997. It is not just Rono that needs help, as I know many others in his situation whose voices have not been heard,” said Osano.

“I’m happy that AK President Tuwei is rallying support to have Rono back home.”

On Thursday, Bungei, the 2008 Olympic 800m champion, who is also Rono’s nephew, said it would be great to have his uncle back.

“I hope people can realise the potential he has, and the number of people he influenced in his running career,” said Bungei, with former world 800m champion Jepkosgei saying Rono’s life experience will be a great lesson to young runners.

Rono was born in 1952 in Kiptaragon village in Nandi County and went to primary school at Kibirirsang Primary School before joining the army in 1993 after completing his secondary education in 1971.

After a three-year stint in the military, he joined Washington State University.