Okay, I have this thing.
Spending six to ten hours a day, editing, writing and podcasting, I catch myself editing everything.
Ben Jipcho, John Davies, 1974 Commonwealth Games, photo courtesy Commonwealth Games/Seattle Times
This piece is in honor Ben Jipcho, who died this past week. Ben Jipcho was one of the finest athletes of his generation. Heck, he was one of the finest Kenyan athletes of any generation. Ben Jipcho was an amazing anomoly, now, in this time when, sublimating one’s own needs for the bettement of a team, community, nation seems, well, so old-fashioned to many. Ben Jipcho did not just compete, he made history!
In that case, the piece on Ben Jipcho was quite good, except two glaring errors:
Kip Keino did not defeat Jim Ryun in Munich, it was in Mexico. Jim Ryun did not make the final in Munich at 1,500m. KIp Keino won silver (1500m) and gold (steeplechase). Ben Jipcho took his only Olympic medal, a silver in 1972, in the steeplechase.
Kip Keino took the silver in the 1,500m in 1972, in attempting to defend his 1,500m gold from Mexico City in 1968. Pekka Vasala battled Kip Keino, going 1:46 in the last 700 meters to take the gold medal to Keino’s silver. Kip Keino took gold the steeplechase in Munich 1972, Ben Jipcho was silver in Munich in the steeplechase, and Jim Ryun was not in the steeplechase. Jim Ryun had been tripped in the 1,500m heats, and did not advance. A protest had been filed for Jim Ryun, but it was denied.
So, this is why Ben Jipcho was so famous:
In the 1968 Olympic final, Ben Jipcho took the lead, and made a mad dash to a 56-second first lap. By the 800m, Kip Kieno was in the lead and moving away, with Ben Jipcho heading to the back. Jim Ryun was gasping and trying to catch Keino. Ryun used his amazing speed, and moved from 10th to second in the last lap. Alas, Ryun was still 30 meters behind Kip Keino. Jim Ryun took silver, in 3:37.8, to Keino’s 3:34.9, and Bodo Tummler, 3:39.00 in bronze. Jipcho was the rabbit, and without him, Keino would have had a much more challenging time. Ben Jipcho gave up his medal hopes to help Kenya to gold.
I do not believe that Kip Keino would have won the gold without the help of Jipcho. I do not believe Keino did either. He shares the same sentiment in his tribute to Ben Jipcho, as we note below.
Jim Ryun just recieved the Presidential Medal of Freedom, ironically, within a day of the death of Ben Jipcho. Jim Ryun was vilified by the sporting press on his silver medal in Mexico City. An amazingly talented middle distance runner had the altitude in Mexico City to slow him down at the height of his career.
To Jim Ryun’s credit, he had believed gold would be decided at 3:39, due to the altitude. He ran 3:37.8, two second faster than he thought it would take to win gold in Mexico City. In fact, Jim Ryun questioned if he should even begin the final, and had to be cajoled into competing by a U.S. assistant Olympic coach.
Research suggests that Ben Jipcho apologized to Jim Ryun on the rabbiting in Mexico City. I believe it was on a Bud Greenspan show on the 1,500m. I will attach a link when I find it.
Ben Jipcho, Tapio Kantenen, Munich 1972, photo by World Athletics
Ben Jipcho would make his presence known in the steeplechase, and the 5,000m in upcoming championships. His 1,500m speed was good as well.
Ben Jipcho took silver in the 1970 Commonwealth Games steeplechase, with 1968 Olympic gold medalist at steeplechase, Amos Biwott, taking the bronze.
Ben Jipcho took Olympic silver in the steeplechase, to Kip Keino’s gold and Tapio Kantenen in bronze in Munich in 1972, the only Olympic medal ever won by Jipcho.
Ben Jipcho’s amazing medal perfomances were in 1974, at the Commonwealth Games. Ben Jipcho took gold in the 5000m and Steeplechase, and then, took the bronze in the 1,500m, in that insane run by Filbert Bayi.
Kip Keino said this to the Standard in Kenya on Ben Jipcho:
“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,”
I became aware of Ben Jipcho’s amazing sacrifice in the 1,500m final in Mexico City on Bud Greenspan’s Olympic show. I held Ben Jipcho with much respect, due that performance.
It is with profound sadness that I’ve learnt of the passing of legendary athlete #BenJipcho this morning. #HeroJipcho will be celebrated as one of ðŸ‡°ðŸ‡ª’s most accomplished athletes whose excellence put ðŸ‡°ðŸ‡ª on the global sporting map as early as 1968 at the Mexico City Olympic Games. pic.twitter.com/NwH1nOwGQZ
— AMB.(Dr.) Amina C. Mohamed (@AMB_A_Mohammed) July 24, 2020
Paul Tergat, Kenyan Olympic committee president, and a man who knows something about competition, said this to the Standard about the late Ben Jipcho:
“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,”
Ben Jipcho died, at the age of 77, on 25 July at 3:08 a.m. at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Eldoret,Kenya.
At RunBlogRun, we will always recall Ben Jipcho as the man who sacrificed his own performance to give Kenya a gold medal. Ben Jipcho was a huge role model in Kenya and is being lauded as someone to remember in Kenya in contemporary times.
Watch the 1500m final below. See Ben Jipcho sacrifice himself. See Kip Keino push the pace, and see Jim Ryun make a valiant attempt to catch Kip Keino. Also, see Ben Jipcho and Kip Keino speaking with each othe warmly post race. It was a paradigm changing event. Many believe that his sacrifice is from a bygone era.
I will leave that to your conjecture.
To see the entire story Standard (Kenya):
Tributes to Ben Jipcho, PD online (Kenya):
Inteview with Kip Keino (Oct 2016, Chicago)-