The Legend of Ben Jipcho

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Ben Jipcho was an athletics legend in his own right. As a pioneer steeplechase athlete and an Olympic silver medallist, Jipcho made his own mark.


But not many know about the unique way in which Ben Jipcho paved the way for Kipchoge Keino to make his historic win in 1968.

Athlete Ben Jipcho whose sacrifice paved the way for Kipchoge Keino

One of Kenya’s early athletics legends passed away this week at a private hospital in Eldoret.

Ben Jipcho made his mark on Kenyan athletics history when he bagged the silver medal in the Olympic 3,000m steeplechase way back in 1972.

Time of Death

Jipcho passed away quietly at 3 am on Friday 24th of July, 2020 after spending three days in the Intensive Care Unit at Fountain Hospital.

Jipcho’s daughter Ruth Jipcho announced his death to the press. He had been short for some time.


His death was attributed to multiple organ failure.

Trouble began a week earlier when he complained of stomach problems. Soon, he was transferred to the Eldoret hospital where he spent three days in ICU before passing on.

How it all Happened

Ben Jipcho’s career began in the 1960s when he inadvertently became one of Kenya’s first pacemakers. Jipcho gave way to Kipchego Keino to win the 1,500 m race during the Olympic Games in 1968.

During the Mexico City Olympic 1500m final, Jipcho opted to pace set for Kipchoge Keino and Keino went on to win, setting a 16-year Olympic record. Jipcho finished tenth in the historic race.

Before clearing the way for Keino, Jipcho had finished his first lap in 56 seconds. Kipchoge Keino’s time was an impressive 3:34.91.

Four years later, Jipcho returned to the Olympics and won a silver medal in the 3,000m steeplechase in Munich.

Jipcho took the silver medal in the Commonwealth Games of 1970 held in Edinburg.

Jipcho won two gold medals in 1973 when he competed in 5,000 and 3,000m steeplechase during the Lagos All Africa Games.

Two years later, Ben Jipcho again won two gold medals for the 5,000 and 3,000m steeplechase held in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1974.

President Uhuru Kenyatta eulogized Jipcho as a pioneer middle-distance athlete who set the pace, not only for his contemporary Kipchoge Keino, but also for subsequent generations of athletes.


Joyce Sambu
Author: Joyce Sambu


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