PORT HARCOURT, May 29, 2019 – Kenyan athlete, Simon Cheprot had arrived Edo State, Nigeria as one of the favourites to win the 7th edition of the Okpekpe International 10km Road Race on Saturday May 25. He however left, not as the winner, but a hero, who swapped his title ambition for an incredible show of sportsmanship.
Brothers Cheprot, who won the men’s title of the IAAF Silver Label race in 2016 and finished 2nd last year, was a top contender for this year’s crown but stopped in his tracks towards the end of the race to help a fellow competitor, Kenneth Kipkemoi, who had collapsed. Cheprot lifted his compatriot off the ground, helped him across the finish line, and handed him over to the medical team. He had to settle for 15th position as a result, seven places behind the money-winning zone.
“Thanks Lord for giving me energy to help my friend to cross the finish line in Okpekpe. God says do not leave your people behind… if you are white or black all of us are friends, if you are Christians, Muslims or Hindu all of us are brothers. Don’t leave your brother, sister or friends to die because of money. When you die on this earth you will not go with your money or your properties, only your heart,” Cheprot advised in a post on Facebook.
Running is not war As a reward for his humanitarian gesture, Cheprot earned $10,000, which is half of what the winner of the men’s race got. If Cheprot had won, he would have become the first athlete (man or woman) to win two Okpekpe titles since the race began in 2013. But even without winning, he stole the show and deservedly hogged the headlines.
“Running is not war; running brings peace, unity and friendship. My dad told me one day, ‘when you are walking and you meet a sick person on the road, help him; do not leave him’, so that was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw my friend on the ground,” Cheprot explained to Making of Champions.
Hero Mike Itemuagbor, promoter of the race, hailed Cheprot as a ‘hero’ in an interview with Making of Champions: “While running, his colleague collapsed and on instinct, Simon picked him up; held tight to him and lifted him. That ended his race. But he saved a life. In 2016, Simon came 1st at Okpekpe; was 2nd last year. Now, in 2019, he won hearts. One of our partners gave him $2,000, former Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomole added $3,000 before Edo State’s Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu increased the reward from $5000 to $10,000 with an additional $5000.
“But most of all, everybody hailed his ‘brother’s keeper’ attitude. This is what is called sportsmanship. Simon gave proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect, and a sense of fellowship with his competitors. He is the hero of the seventh edition of the race.”
Non-African winner Meanwhile,Bahrain’s Dawit Fikadu, who emerged as the overall winner of the male race in a time of 29.03secs made history as the first non-African winner of the race. He was followed Berehanu Tsegu from Ethiopia with a time of 29.04 and John Lotiang from Kenya with a time of 29.17.
In the female category, Sheila Chelangat from Kenya claimed the top prize after finishing the race in 33.14, while her compatriot Tuitoek Jepchirchrir, finished second (33.18secs) and Gudeta Getachew in third place (33.41secs).
Nigeria’s long-distance couple Emmanuel Gyang and his wife Deborah Pam were the best Nigerian athletes at the event in the male and female categories respectively.