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Sport can change lives, Kipketer says

Memories of a Haiti kid still moves the champion

Gulf News

Dubai: It’s been more than three years but Wilson Kipketer is still moved by the memories of a hapless child in Haiti after the devastating earthquake there in 2010.

“Standing amidst the ruins, he didn’t know where his parents were but the sight of [Christian] Karembeu asking him to join in a game of football had him breaking into a broad smile,” recalled the Kenyan middle distance ace, one of the champions of the “Peace and Sport” programme.

Kipketer and Karembeu, a member of the French World Cup winning squad in 1998 and another champion of the initiative, were part of a Peace and Sport delegation which visited the earthquake-ravaged nation as part of their charity initiative.

“Thanks to our efforts, the child goes to school today and plays football too. It’s such experiences which make my association with the organisation worthwhile,” Kipketer told Gulf News on the sidelines of the press conference to launch the Dubai Forum.

The Kenyan, who ran for Denmark and ruled the 800 metres event in the late Nineties, said he chose to be a part of the initiative ever since it was launched in 2007 in Monaco. “I had always believed that sport is a medium which can bring people together and change lives.

“If you take my example, I was born in a small village in Kenya and started running there, it was athletics which took me [to] Denmark for whom I had participated in international competitions and now I live in Monaco. All these would not have been possible if I had not been a sportsperson,” said Kipketer, a gold medallist in his favourite event in three consecutive world championships between 1995 and 1999 and a silver and bronze medallist in Sydney and Athens Olympics, respectively.

The terror attack at the Boston Marathon last week left the athletes’ community shell-shocked as terror groups have generally left sports scenes alone barring the few odd instances. While expressing his disappointment at the incident, Kipketer said that the level of participation in the London Marathon on Sunday, however, vindicated people’s faith in the healing power of sport.

“See, sport can be an easy target if one wants to do harm as it’s accessible to the public and there is no bar. However, the success of London Marathon in terms of widespread participation shows how everyone wanted to defeat terror. There was a telling message on a kid’s shirt who were among the spectators in London which said: no more hurting people.”

It was Kenyan David Rudisha, the undisputed king of 800m now, who broke Kipketer’s world record in the event in 2010. Asked if he was happy that the record has now gone to a compatriot, Kipketer was somewhat philosophical: “I have done my time and I am not unhappy at all that my record has been broken. However, Rudisha has now set a benchmark for himself and it’s up to him whether he can better it further in the world championships this year.”


Juan Martin Del Potro holds the championship trophy after defeating Roger Federer (not pictured) in the men's finals in the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.