Amsterdam, The Netherlands – After retaining her title at the Second IAAF World Road Running Championships in Udine, Italy, in a new World record time 10 days ago, sensational Kenyan-born Dutchwoman Lornah Kiplagat has yet another feather in her cap.
The IAAF World Cross Country Championships champion was on Wednesday night (24) awarded the prestigious United Nations “Millennium Shoe Award” in recognition of her contribution to society outside her running career at a glittering ceremony held in downtown Amsterdam.
Kiplagat beat off a strong challenge from Dutch football stars Clarence Seedorf (AC Milan), Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) and Kalusha Bwalya (formerly PSV Eindhoven and Zambia), among other top sports personalities, to win the award that celebrates the contribution of sports stars to the development of the underprivileged, especially in Africa and other third world countries.
Kiplagat’s triumph was especially in appreciation of her contribution to the High Altitude Training Centre in Iten, Keiyo District of Kenya’s Rift Valley Province, an institution she started from her athletics earnings that seeks to assist women athletes successfully pursue their athletics careers in tandem with primary, high school and university education.
Recently, Kiplagat, who acquired Dutch citizenship in 2003 after marrying to her Dutch coach/manager Pieter Langerhorst, launched the Lornah Kiplagat Foundation in the Netherlands with a view to raising funds to educate needy children up to university level in Kenya.
Kiplagat is also involved as a special ambassador in KLM’s “Doctor to Doctor Project”, an initiative by the Dutch airline that seeks to improve medical care in Africa. The project recently held a medical clinic at the Moi Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya.
The Lornah Kiplagat Foundation has identified needy students who intend to study in the US “Ivy League” institutions such as Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia University and also the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The foundation will soon roll out a national talent search programme to help needy students from all provinces of Kenya.
New York Half Marathon champion Hilda Kibet, who was inspired by Kiplagat to complete her degree in physiotherapy in Amsterdam, and newly-crowned World Military Games 10,000 metres gold medallist Doris Changeiywo, are some of Kiplagat’s products from the High Altitude Training Centre. Kibet, Kiplagat’s cousin, recently acquired Dutch citizenship after a six-year process.
Seven times Dutch Marathon champion Luc Krotwaar and Zimbabwe’s distance running star Sharon Tavengwa are some of the elite athletes who regularly train at Kiplagat’s Iten camp.
At Wednesday night’s ceremony, dubbed “The Night of the UN,” Kiplagat was also appointed as a special ambassador and advisor of the Netherlands’ Ministry of Sport to help in using sport to spur the development agenda.
“I’m overwhelmed by winning this award and also in being named special ambassador by the Ministry of Sports. I hope to see more and more top sports performers used to push the development agenda in Africa,” Kiplagat said after receiving the award from celebrated Dutch fighter, Ernesto Hoost, himself a huge celebrity especially in Japan following his “K-1” fighting exploits in Asia that have seen him win the K-1 world title four times.
“I’m proud of her and of what she has done on the track, road and, most significantly, in helping the underprivileged in Africa,” former Africa Footballer of the Year Bwalya said after losing out to Kiplagat in the final round. Bwalya runs the Kalusha Bwalya Foundation in Zambia that ropes junior players into football and seeks to keep them off drugs and other vices.
The other finalists were Seedorf, former Dutch cycling champion Peter Winnen and paralysed martial artist Lydia La Riviere. Seedorf was not present as he was engaged with European champions AC Milan’s ambitions of retaining their Uefa Champions League title.
After her victory in Udine, Kiplagat was also named an honourary member of the Dutch Athletics Federation, the only recipient of the prestigious award after multiple Olympic champion Fanny Blankers Koen who was also named the Athlete of the Century by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for the 1990s. Blankers Koen won four gold medals at the 1948 Olympic Games in London.
Last year’s inaugural UN Millennium Shoe Award was won by Dutch international football star Aaron Winter.
Kiplagat was on Wednesday presented with a beautiful trophy with the symbolic Millennium Shoe design. The Millennium Shoe Award was initiated last year to bring creativity and sports together, adding values for a better world.
Special sneakers where designed by Dorien van Alphen, who won a design contest, and from the sale of each pair, six Euros are collected towards to help people in Africa lead a better life.
“Clean drinking water is essential for everybody to survive and stay active,” says van Alphen. “We lose six Euros but they (underprivileged in Africa) win a life.”
Kimono, Brand Aid and the NCDO Holland produce the Millennium Shoe.
The NCDO is an independent organiation with the goal to strengthen and highlight public support for international co-operation and sustainable development and the achievement of the Millennium Goals.
Kimono is a fashion brand and supplier of the Millennium Shoe and also supplies trade fair clothes and footwear all over the world raising money for charity.
Source: Lornah’s Foundation website.