Mid and long-distance athlete Henry Kirwa says he will compete for the last time in 1500m and 5000m events at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The Kenyan will switch to marathon after a final shot in the three distance events in Tokyo next year.

“Tokyo Games will mark the end of my Paralympic career, but I am not done yet. I shall compete in marathon after Tokyo Games,” Kirwa stated.

The four-time Paralympic gold medallist and three-time world record holder hopes his transition to the longest distance event is successful. Kirwa made his debut at the age of 35 at Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. He won three gold medals in all his events (1500m and 5000m T13, and 10,000m T12).

He says age has caught up with him, but his will to keep running remains and hence the plans to switch to marathon. “I’m no more a young man, I’m now 47. All sports people face this grim reality some time or the other. As years advance, focusing on one event would be good. I have chosen the marathon,” says Kirwa.

“I will be able to concentrate on building my endurance and stamina, a key need of marathon running.”

Carrying family legacy 

Kirwa comes from a famous sports family. Paul Tergat, the first Kenyan to set the world record in marathon in 2003, is his brother. His mother Christine Cheruiyot was a national-level athlete and his father Kirwa Cheruiyot served in the military; he started as an athlete and later switched to shooting and became a sharpshooter. He won a bronze medal at the Military Games in Berlin, Germany.

Being a native of Kenya, a well-known marathon powerhouse, Kirwa always aspired to be an athlete and have his name alongside his brothers. As young boy, the three-time Paralympian would often join his brothers’ training sessions. They would tick him off saying he was wasting his time running with them since he had a disability.

Kirwa would reply, “I want to keep fit and improve my stamina.” His persistence paid eventually. He improved as an athlete. Later in 2007, he entered competitive sports for people with disabilities and etched his name in the record books with a plethora of podium finishes.

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