My Paralympic world records are flowers of fame, says Henry Kiprono Kirwa

Three-time world Paralympics record holder Henry Kiprono Kirwa has called his world records as flowers of fame since he has never benefited, despite exploiting the world in the Paralympic Games.

The Nandi County-based Paralympian, who specializes in the T12 and T13 categories, holds the three world records in 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m set during the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.

“My life changed a lot because of sports and I am enjoying the fruits. However, the records that I hold are only meant for fame but nothing comes with them. If I was running under the World Athletics, I could be receiving a lot of money but the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) they give money but an athlete is rewarded by the respective governments. If you break a world record with the World Athletics, you earn like kshs 40 million but for the Paralympics, you only receive rewards from your governments,” said Kirwa.

He says that his rewards are the best after winning in various events and at every gold; he earned Kshs 800,000 per medal.

“I earned my cash through the gold medals, not the world records, which were never recognized by the government unlike now. Also I must congratulate the government that has started paying the guides which were not there. If an athlete wins gold, the guide will also win gold unlike in the past when you could share half,” explained Kirwa.

His journey began in early 2,000 when he used to compete with the likes of double Olympic games marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge before breaking through in the 2007 when he represented the country at the Africa Games in Algiers, Algeria.

“I come from a running family like my mother and my brothers run too. Once we used to train, I could not see far and I was left behind. I was visually impaired. I could not see more than 20m so I was left behind and catching up was a challenge,” said Kirwa.

He says that he signed a contract with Gianni Demadona then coach Renato Canova discovered his eyesight challenge and advised him to join Paralympics.

He went ahead to meet a lady friend Christine Chepkirui in Cheptiret who explained to him more about Paralympics.

“I was frank with her and she told me to go for some trials in Kapsabet where I was classified under T12. From there, I was handed three races (1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m) which I won all of them, earning ticket for national trials, winning all and led me join the Kenya team to All Africa Games in Algeria in 2007 where I won two gold medals in the 1,500m and 5,000m. I was so fast because I used to train with able people,” remembered Kirwa.

After Algeria, he did not even report back home as he was redirected to compete at the World championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as the only Kenyan athlete after the government failed to send the team managing to win three gold medals in the 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m.

“From Rio, I managed to qualify for the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. This is where I broke the three world records with three gold medals where I was rewarded handsomely by the late president Mwai Kibaki. The record stands until now,” he said.

After hanging spikes, he went into coaching, producing top athletes.

“What I see in Paralympics, there are no professional coaches and I have experience on what needs to be done to win a race. Majority of our athletes lack skills and I came to help,” he said.

He says that he has focused on training athletes in the events that he dominated like the 1,500m and 5,000m.

“I am giving them tips on how to break records the way I did. Right now, Wesley Sang is using my program races. I also train Nancy Chelangat and Mary Waithera, who all of them have qualified for the 2024 Paris Paralympics,” he said. 

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