Heroic send off as AK boss Kiplagat is laid to rest
He spent most of his administrative life serving Kenyan athletics and on Friday, the sport came back to Isaiah Fundi Kiplagat to accord him a fitting send off in his Kapseret home in Eldoret.
As soon as the public funeral service that celebrated the life of the seventh and longest serving Athletics Kenya (AK) president was over, the skies opened in a downpour that is interpreted in most African communities as a blessing as his casket was lowered to its grave in a private burial ceremony at his rural home.
Sporting royalty including champion athletes and federation officials from all levels, politicians as well as captains of industry led by Postbank where he served as managing director joined the family in celebrating the life of the leader who passed on August 24 with the funeral mass led by AIC Nandi Bishop, Kogo.
Mourners filed past his open brown hardwood casket placed in a tented catafalque before being led to their designated sitting area in a ceremony conducted with the precision and order he lived for and according to his nephew and former MP, Joshua Kutuny, was choreographed by Kiplagat before he passed on from cancer after battling the disease since 2010.
As those assembled to pay their last respect filed past his coffin, speeches went on as speaker upon speaker exalted the virtues of the departed leader who also served as an official of Safari Rally Limited, Karate and Kenya Paraplegic Association since he was first elected to AK’s forerunner, Kenya Amateur Athletics Association in 1975.
Agriculture Cabinet secretary, Willy Bett, who told the gathered he was employed by Kiplagat as his Personal Assistant read President Uhuru Kenyatta’s message where the Head of State saying the federation chief’s mastery in sports administration would be missed.
“Kiplagat also taught me the value of family and when I was appointed, I put the photos of mine in the office. He would never carry work home and always devoted his time to his family,” the minister said adding he would not be where he is if it were not for the fallen AK boss who gave him his first job whilst he was still a university student.
CORD co-principal, Moses Wetangula who caused a stir when he arrived for the burial service some minutes to midday, Uasin Gishu and Nandi governors, Jackson Mandago and Dr. Cleophas Lagat, MPs Samuel Moroto (Kapenguria), host Oscar Sudi (Kapseret) and Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini), Member of County Assembly and aspiring candidates were among the throng of politicians who attended the service.
“Kiplagat and I used to discuss about culture of our communities and there was a lot in common. I knew him as a long term friend and astute leader,” Wetangula said as he worked the crowd by narrating words in his native Bukusu dialect that rhyme with those of the fallen leader Nandi language.
-Kemboi merry dance-
Two-time Olympics and four-time world men 3000m steeplechase champion, Ezekiel Kemboi, has the crowd in stitches when he recalled how Kiplagat helped him secure a better contract when, “Wazungu wawili walijaribu kunichanganya na kusign contract nikifikiria ni autograph” (two European tried to confuse me and made sign contracts thinking they wanted autographs).
“I went to Kiplagat who went through them and made me chose the best and we tore the other.”
Turning on his successor as Olympics champion, Conseslus Kipruto who was present, he added, “When I won my first Olympic (Athens 2004), Conseslus was in standard three.”
“Isaiah Kiplagat’s name was synonymous with Kenyan athletes conquering the globe, at will, mostly in middle and long distance races. Athletics administrators worldwide saw incompleteness in major event if Isaiah Kiplagat’s team was not among those participating,” Sports Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Hassan Wario said in his speech read by Haron Oichoe.
Those gathered were moved to tears by the moving tributes by his wife Jane, daughter Judy and Kevin, the eldest of his grandchildren.
The chairperson of the Salaries Review Commission, Sarah Serem, who was mentored by Kiplagat, AK boss, Lt. Gen (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei, his former deputy, David Okeyo and Olympic marathon gold medallist, Eliud Kipchoge were among the speakers who celebrated the life of the fallen administrator as an era came to an end with the showers that escorted him down the grave.