Tale of Kenyan Runner Who 'Chose' to Remain Overseas

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n 2006, a Kenya National Paralympic athlete took five runners for a tour of the US where they were to take part in a 5km road race in New York City.

There was nothing strange in this because some of them had been making trips to the US for various competitions.

But while most athletes who went there are back home, one Julia Chepkopus, a visually impaired and mentally challenged athlete from West Pokot, never came back and her fate remains unclear.

Chepkopus is living in Michigan surviving mostly on food stamps with her one-year-old child – she is separated from her husband.

There are conflicting reports on what really happened to Chepkopus when she went to the US.

Interviews with athletes who accompanied her to the US and a Government official aware of the matter have it that she was dumped at a relative’s house.

She became pregnant after which her child was given up for adoption due to her condition.

According to Prof Wilson Lagat, the Sports Secretary, they are aware that Chepkopus was impregnated against her will by those she was staying with in Maryland, US, and they are keenly following the matter.

Lagat said Chepkopus later moved to Michigan where she got married to an American and got another child.

Against her will

"It was in Michigan that the husband started mistreating her and beat her up. After that, the court took Chepkopus and put her up in a welfare home where she is receiving food coupons from the US government as the case continues," he said.

But this account is disputed by Ronald Milare, who is one of those who took Chepkopus to the US and Sports Commissioner Gordon Oluoch.

According to the two, the athlete got a scholarship and is currently studying in the US as she continues with her running career.

"Chepkopus’s mother even came to my office sometime last year and told me her daughter is happy in the US after she got a scholarship and even sends them money for upkeep," said Oluoch.

Milare, who denied any wrongdoing in the matter said: "It is true I took her to the US to compete together with other runners. She remained behind after she was offered a scholarship to study."

But a chat with Chepkopus totally contradicts the statement by Oluoch and Milare.

She confirmed she never got the alleged scholarship after she became pregnant and lives with her son supported by the US government’s welfare scheme.

"I never got any scholarship to study because of what happened. I have been here for all these years and would love to go back to running when fully fit," she said.

As to whether she would love to come back home, Chepkopus said it is something she is considering but not now, saying she is in touch with her family in West Pokot.

Source: The Standard

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