A young athlete with a fledgling distance running career, Kiplimo Chemirmir looked set for life.
He had just put up a house in Ayany Estate, Nairobi, and was pretty well settled down when life took a dramatic turn for the worse.
Having just landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from Switzerland, Chemirmir couldn’t have imagine what awaited him at his new residence.
It was the height of the 2007-08 post-election violence and Kenya was fragile.
“When I was dropped off from the airport, I found my house on fire,” he recalled in an interview at Nation Centre yesterday.
“I tried to get what I could, but some of the people around said ‘they are coming for you.’
“I dropped down my luggage and started to run. Fortunately, a police car on patrol was driving by and one of the policemen told me to jump in.
“And as we drove off, a petrol bomb was hurled at the car which made the policemen very angry and they blamed me for their misfortune.” Chemirmir says he then handed one of the policemen 100 Euros (Sh11,400 in today’s exchange rates) which cooled things down a bit, and the policemen dropped him off at Wilson Airport where his uncle worked as a pilot, and from where he was eventually evacuated to his family home near Eldama Ravine.
“I did not have much money because all the money that I had, I had invested in my house.”
While back home, the post-election troubles followed him.
“We were told that raiders were looking for athletes, claiming the athletes were fanning the violence,” he recollected.
“This forced me to hide in the bush, and, for three days, I was in a cave behind a waterfall, barely surviving with just water to get by.”
Fast-forward to his diving into physiotherapy.
Growing up as a young boy, Chemirmir loved watching movies starring Hong Kong-American actor and martial artist, Bruce Lee.
“It was interesting how he (Bruce Lee) was able to combine karate, taekwondo, boxing and even ballet into the art of Jeet Kune Do.
“It was after the Kenyan athletics trials of 2007 that I decided to go to China and study Chinese massage and I was lucky I got a friend who paid for me everything.”
Chemirmir excelled in his studies, and was introduced to a contact in Thailand where he proceeded to study Thai massage.
“Thai massage is a lot similar to American chiropractor (manipulation of the musculoskeletal system especially through the manual adjustment of the spinal vertebrae to correct nervous system dysfunction).
“I was interested to learn more about other forms of therapy, and after I lost my house and everything, I had an opportunity to go to America,” he recalls.
Having landed in the US, and settled in Dallas, Texas, Chemirmir started competing in road races, principally to make ends meet.
Besides athletics and study, what drove Chemirmir to America was his sister, Betty, who had suffered a rheumatic heart disease.
He would feature in up to three road races a week — winning two marathons, finishing second and third in many — which would later take a toll on him, physically.
“The races were too close to each other but I wanted to do it for my sister,” he narrates.
“I would win 50 dollars in a race, another 200 in another race.
“I used to run the marathon but I didn’t have the endurance to finish!,” adds Chemirmir who posted personal best times of two hours and 32 minutes for the marathon, one minute, 44 seconds for the 800 metres and 13:14 in the five kilometres road race.
“My grandfather warned me not to allow anyone shed tears over something that I can help. He told me I should never see a woman cry.
“I had stopped running, but I started running in the US so that I could get money to help my sister.
“The doctors said she could not go past 13 years, then it was 18, but now she’s old, she has a child and both of them are healthy. Being there for her is an achievement I’m very proud of.”
“I also wanted to take my massage classes in the US. It was difficult in the beginning, and while I was learning chiropractic I also took classes in osteopathy (treatment of illnesses by physically manipulating muscle tissue and bones).”
Chemirmir married in the US but ran out of his visa. However, as he had a son with his ex-wife, he managed to get the papers to stay on.
It then took him eight years, and lots of money, to get his Green Card that would allow him to live and work in USA. “It took me almost $75,000 (Sh7.5 million) just going through the lawyers. The worst thing was losing (custody of) my son to my ex-wife, and also getting paralysed.”
Things got a lot worse for Chemirmir, who is now 36, when he suffered paralysis after he was twisted the wrong way by a chiropractor.
“I was for two and a half years not able to walk,” he recalled.
Chemirmir credits fellow athlete, Laban Moiben, who won the 2011 Ottawa Marathon, for helping him settle in USA.
He has since handled top global athletes, including Great Britain’s multiple world and Olympic distance running gold medallist Mo Farah, several Americans, including Leo Manzano (Olympic 800m silver medallist), last year’s Boston Marathon silver medallist Jordan Hasay and Kenya-born American Paul Chelimo, the 2016 Rio Olympics 5,000 metres silver medallist.
He’s also worked with celebrities and baseball stars, including Venezuelan second baseman Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros in Major League Baseball.
Currently on his first trip to Kenya since travelling to USA over eight years ago, Chemimir, an alumnus of Sagasagik Primary School and Baringo High School, sees a lot of change in Kenya.
He’s planning to invest in setting up a centre for people with albinism on his family’s 90-acre land near Eldama Ravine, help them learn a trade and start businesses. His initial plan is to set aside $4,000 (Sh400,000) for each graduate to help them set up businesses.
“I don’t want to be paid. I just wanna help them, just like Wangari Mathaai helped by planting trees.
“I hope to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta and the First Lady some day and ask for their help to make this project a success.
“I’d also like to meet the President of Tanzania because that’s where people with albinism have lots of problems.
“What they will be doing at the sanctuary is to learn trades like carpentry, painting, pottery and so on, which take up to one year to study, and then they can start their businesses where we support them.”
Chemirmir is in Kenya for the next couple of weeks, but plans to return towards the end of the year to formalize his union with his fiancé Chelsea.
“I also want to take her to the Masai Mara because she has been dreaming of seeing the animals over there,” he adds as he packs up his $35,000 (Sh3.5 million) ‘Human Tecar’ physiotherapy machine.
He’s just completed physiotherapy sessions with about a dozen Nation Football Club players who’ve been struggling with aches and pains after a long, three-match friendlies tour of Western Kenya and the North Rift last weekend.
It pains him to see athletes in discomfort, and, indeed, it pained him to see US-based 800 metres sensation, Michael Saruni — a protégé of 1988 Olympic 800 metres champion Paul Ereng at the University of Texas, El Paso — fail to qualify for the World Championships at Thursday’s Athletics Kenya trials. Saruni is battling a hamstring injury and failed to make Friday’s final of the two-lap race at Nyayo National Stadium.
Saruni and college-mate Emmanuel Korir have both been on Chemirmir’s physiotherapy table at his Houston-based consultancy, Kiprunning Sports Massage (Osteopath and Physiotherapy).
He advises athletes to invest in education and alternative forms of revenue generation.
“If, for instance, an athlete gets injured and is unable to run, he or she needs something to fall back on,” he says.
“I’m lucky I learnt physiotherapy because it has helped me after my running career.”
Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20 – World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe after New Zealand said there was no room for sides from the republic in Super Rugby.
“All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just does not work,” said the hooker who retired after the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.
“We have got so many South Africans playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see them in action here for European clubs.”
With New Zealand favouring a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux will address the media Tuesday about the way forward.
There has been no rugby in South Africa since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 5,033 lives by late Sunday, the most in an African country.
Here, AFP Sport looks at the possibilities for the world champions Springboks and Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.
There has been speculation that the six-round annual tournament will be cut to four matches with New Zealand and Australia playing in South Africa only every second year.
That would be a huge blow for SA Rugby coffers as the century-old rivalry with the All Blacks makes them a huge drawcard.
South Africa might consider abandoning the Championship and pursuing a suggestion by former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson for three-Test tours between the great rivals.
“British and Irish Lions tours are so successful because we look forward to them,” noted another ex-All Black, John Kirwan. The same could be said of an All Blacks-Springboks series.
Should South African franchises move north, would the Springboks follow suit and apply to join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a ‘Seven Nations’ championship?
Having the world champions on board would surely excite the organisers and costs would be greatly reduced if the Springboks played their three away matches on consecutive weekends.
England, Ireland, France and Wales, in particular, would bring freshness for rugby followers, who have not rushed to the turnstiles for Championship visits by Australia and Argentina.
Ask the SA Rugby treasurer for his ‘dream’ line-up and he would surely say a multi-Test tour by the All Blacks and participation in the ‘Seven Nations’.
Although not official yet, the reality is that New Zealand want to play some Australian sides and the Pacific Islands in a new competition while excluding South Africa and Argentina.
The original version, a Super 10 between 1993 and 1995, was a superb competition, but constant tinkering and expansion has led to waning interest in a difficult-to-follow event.
Even those supporting the Golden Lions of South Africa could not have derived too much satisfaction from a 94-7 thrashing of Japanese visitors the Sunwolves three years ago.
South Africa sides often battled with time differences in Australasia — New Zealand is 11 hours ahead of the republic — and were weary after four-match tours.
Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi says he would welcome Super Rugby ‘rejects’ the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers into an expanded edition.
“The tournament works well but could be even better if we added some South African teams,” he said, referring to a competition that also includes Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.
But there may be no room for the two current South African Pro14 participants, the Cheetahs and Kings, who have experienced very different fortunes.
While the Cheetahs have been competitive, the Kings won just four of 55 matches in three seasons with some of the losing margins embarrassing.
The domestic competition has survived constant format changes to remain the vital ‘nursery’ from which Springboks emerge.
First staged in 1892, it was the bedrock of South African rugby until the dawn of professionalism after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
As Test and Super Rugby fixtures took up an increasing amount of the season, the Currie Cup often battled for calendar space.
But it survived and this year could feature the four Super Rugby sides plus the Cheetahs, Kings, Griquas and Pumas, if play is possible amid the coronavirus.
Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19
Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections
Kenya on Monday reported 418 more Covid-19 infections, raising the country’s tally to 13,771 since the virus was first confirmed on March 13.
Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman also reported four more deaths, raising the toll to 238. He rectified an earlier report about 19 deaths in a single day, which would have been the highest number ever recorded in Kenya.
The 418 new patients were found following the testing of 2,474 samples in the last 24 hours.
Four hundred and eight of them were Kenyans and 10 foreigners while male patients numbered 263 and female patients 155.
Dr Aman also announced that 494 patients had been discharged, raising the country’s total number of recoveries to 5,616.
Of the recovered patients, 465 were under home care and the rest in hospitals.
More to follow