The message was loud and clear: “End gender-based violence.” This was during the requiem mass for the late former world cross country champion Agnes Jebet Tirop at Kapnyemisa Primary School in Nandi County on Friday.
Tirop, who was found dead in her home in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County, last week, will be buried today at her parent’s home in Kapnyamisa Village, Mosoriot, Nandi County.
Her partner, Ibrahim Rotich, is the main suspect in the murder of the two-time World Championships 10,000 metres bronze medallist.
In her honour, fellow athletes have agreed to launch the Agnes Tirop Foundation which will help school children and upcoming athletes.
The foundation will raise funds to support all the school going that Tirop supported, alongside her personal pace makers whom she was also supporting.
Tirop used to pay school fees for student in Chepalungu Boys High School, Kapkole Girls High School, Asururiet SDA Primary School, Ngechek High School and St Elizabeth Chepkunyuk High School.
According to 1,500m specialist Viola Lagat, who has since moved up to the 10,000m and road races, it was so painful to lose such a young athlete through gender violence.
“I have lost a sister and it’s been tough thinking of the brutality in the name of a lover she went through. Is this the way we are going to be treated by the community as women and lose our lives in such a way?” she posed.
Lagat asked men during the mass to swear that they would not mistreat, or even murder, women in their lives, saying Tirop’s death should be the end of the gender-based violence.
“She was my friend and a woman I looked up to and she had worked so hard for that record because she ran a race of her life,” said Lagat in reference to Tirop’s 10km road race world record which she broke last month in Germany.
“We shouldn’t be celebrating her death here today, but her success. “This is an athlete we wanted to see in the next 10 years competing, but we are here today weeping because someone killed her,” she added.
Victor Koilel, Tirop’s pacemaker eulogized her as one athlete who wanted to always help those who are in need, saying her loss is a big blow to his personal career.
“She was always happy and we could interact well and something that touched me is that she took me in despite our different backgrounds.
“I have lost a sister and it will be tough for us because she used to pay all the bills for us,” said Koilel.
National athletics head coach Julius Kirwa said coaches will be investigated to prove that they are competent and honest enough to handle athletes, adding that there are many pretenders who were oppressing the athletes.
“I was in Tokyo for the Olympic Games and I was handling Tirop and her death has shocked us. We are warning coaches and fake husbands who are just waiting for an athlete who earns her money to come and boast by buying big vehicles yet they don’t know where the money came from,” warned Kirwa.
Former 800m champion Janeth Jepkosgei warned of lawyers registering athletes’ assets in the name of their (athletes’) spouses without their consent.
Two-time Boston Marathon champion Moses Tanui said that it’s a high time retired athletes united to help the upcoming athletes by way of advice.