• His win was pride-inducing while his speech inspiring to future generations
Five years ago, today, Michael Phelps ended his Olympic swimming career. The American signed out on August 13, 2016, with the 23rd gold medal he bagged at the Olympics in Rio, Brazil.
You may remember that Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. In his sporting career, he earned 28 medals in total. This is not a small feat. It is a standing ovation to both the man himself and the symbolic Olympics sports.
Today Phelps is 36 and still occupies the Olympics hall of fame for his remarkable achievements. He chose to cool things off at age 31.
It is in that Brazilian Olympics that the world first saw his agemate seize the gold medal at the Men's Marathon.
This agemate of Phelps from Kenya has repeated the same feat but this time in Japan, where the global sporting event has been held after a delay of a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our heroic Eliud Kipchoge, 36, is now known by another name: Eliud King Choge. What a spectacular race he ran to the finishing line in the Men's Marathon on August 8 as Kenyans awoke to a new week.
His royalty on the track has seen him race into the books of history, too. Kipchoge is now one of the only three men to have ever defended their Olympic win back to back in two successive Olympics.
He took the gold medal last Sunday for the second time. He had taken it for the first time in the Olympics held in Brazil, where together with Phelps, they showcased their excellence.
Together with our traditional rivals from Ethiopia, such as Selemon Barega, and upcoming Ugandans, the Tokyo tracks have been fair to East Africans. The region continues to display great talent and promise in matters athletics even in the heat of a pandemic with roots in Asia.
As many focused on the well-deserved and spectacular win, it is perhaps the words Kipchoge uttered that should not go unnoticed.
Speaking on Sunday after his victory, good sportsmanship did he display when he hinted that having broken the glass ceiling repeatedly, mentoring the next generation will be his new goal now.
“That is why I ran today, to give hope to the next generation… I hope now to help inspire the next generation,” he said. The nobility of these words cannot be gainsaid. For where greatness exists, there ought it itself to reproduce even if that be in the efforts of others other than itself.
Most great figures in sports and the arts operate on the wisdom that progress is generational. Writers and artists mentor others in workshops and creative writing programmes. This ensures the talent and experience they have as well as their skills can carry on in others.
The temperament of Eliud Kipchoge’s utterance follows this wisdom that is as old as Africa itself. Our cultural traditions abound with folk wit that calls for generational renewal.
Africans of gray hairs remind us that society best reproduces itself by emulating its standards and figures of excellence.
“No Human is Limited!” declared Eliud Kipchoge famously to the whole world. He said so after making history as the first human to run under two hours in the world history of marathons.
Eliud ran slightly over 42km in 2019 at the INEOS Challenge in an unprecedented time of 1 hour and 59 minutes!
It had never happened before and it has not happened again. Remember that he bagged the gold medal in Tokyo earlier this week in 2 hours and 8 minutes. His INEOS record, though unofficial, remains intact.
It is his great character and personality worth emulation that make Eliud Kipchoge a hero to our generation. Surely he is a giant in our time.
Today I walk tall as a parent of several sons. I know that as they sprout and blossom, they will have a figure I can point to as one to be emulated.
His resilience on the track and great sportsmanship show that no human is limited. And his camaraderie, evident in his encouraging fist bump to a younger Ethiopian rival at the 30km mark in Tokyo last Sunday, shows that greatness has a compassionate heart.
His smile and salute to the spectators as he crossed the finish line lights the world even in the night of our ongoing global pandemic.
Here is a figure who reminds us that the most sublime meaning of the human life is when it is a spark that ignites other sparks in the darkness that is the universe.
Long live Eliud King Choge! You embody the art that is carried in your slogan. Hongera Team Kenya. Karibuni nyumbani.
Dr Makokha teaches Literature and Theatre at Kenyatta University. He is a youth mentor, too