Kipchoge ‘Kip’ Keino

Kipchoge Keino has been the face of Kenyan Olympic worldwide. The second man to receive the ‘freedom to Bristol City’ award in the UK, the first was Winston Churchill. He is truly a legend, mover and a shaker, Michael Kwambo went looking for what ‘Kip’ the trail blazer is made of. 

First published: 27 August 2012

Kipchoge Keino has been the face of Kenyan Olympic worldwide. The second man to receive the ‘freedom to Bristol City’ award in the UK, the first was Winston Churchill. He is truly a legend, mover and a shaker, Michael Kwambo went looking for what ‘Kip’ the trail blazer is made of. 

Kipchoge (“Kip”) Keino was born on 17 January 1940; he is the current chairman of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK), and a retired track and field athlete and two-time Olympic gold medalist. 

Kip Keino was among the first in a long line of successful middle and long distance runners to come from Kenya. He has inspired many other Kenyans to take up athletics which has made us the athletics force we are today. 

Earlier this year, he was of one of 24 athletes inducted as inaugural members of the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall Of Fame. 

The beginnings

Keino was born in Kipsamo, Nandi District, Kenya. Both of his parents died while he was young. His name, Kipchoge, is a Nandi language expression for “born near the granary.” He has truly had a good harvest in life to store. He was then brought up by his aunt. After finishing school, he joined Kenya Police where he took up athletics, and played rugby too.

On the tracks

He began his international career at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia where he came eleventh in the three miles. At the 1964 Summer Olympics he finished fifth in 5000 m and barely missed the 1500 m final.

On 27 August 1965, Keino lowered the 3000 m world record by over 6 seconds to 7:39.6 at his first attempt at the distance. He won two gold medals (1500 & 5000 metres) at the inaugural All-Africa Games. 

Later in that year he broke the 5000 m world record held by Ron Clarke clocking 13:24.2. At the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica he won both the mile run and three mile run. In the next Commonwealth Games, he took gold in 1500 metres and a bronze in 5000 metres.

At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, he won the 1500 metres gold medal (defeating American favourite and world record holder Jim Ryun by 20m, the largest winning margin in the history of the event.) He spiced that with a 5000 m silver medal. 

Four years late at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, he started what has come to be known as ‘Kenyan Affair’ by winning the 3000 metres steeplechase gold. In his characteristics, he gave the gold medal company with a 1500 metres silver medal. He retired in 1973. 

In 1987, he shared Sports Illustrated magazine’s “Sportsmen and Sportswomen of the Year” award with seven others, characterized as “Athletes Who Care,” for his work with orphans.

Currently, Keino lives on a farm in Western Kenya where he controls and runs a charitable organization for orphans.

He is married to Phyllis Keino. One son Martin was a two-time NCAA champion and highly successful pace-setter. 

He has built Kip Keino Primary School located near Eldoret, while Kip Keino Secondary School opened in 2009; the International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge was present at the opening ceremony. Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret is named after him. 

In 1996, he was inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.

In 2007, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree by the University of Bristol. This followed another honorary degree from Egerton University, Nakuru. 

In July 2012 he received further recognition from the City of Bristol after the National Olympic Committee of Kenya, under his presidency, made Bristol the training base for its athletes in preparation for the London 2012 Olympics. The Bristol City Council awarded him freedom of the City, making him the first to receive this honour from Bristol since Sir Winston Churchill.

Olympic Committees

He has been Chairman of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) since 1999. The National Olympic Committee is a national constituent of the International Olympic movement. Subject to the controls of the International Olympic Committee, NOCs are responsible for organizing their country’s (or regions) participation in the Olympic Games.

They may nominate cities within their respective areas as candidates for future Olympic Games. NOCs also promote the development of athletes and training of coaches and officials at a national level within their regions.

With a vast majority of Kenyan sports federations affiliated to the NOCK, which facilitates their participation in the Olympic and other affiliated action, Kip Keino is truly one of the prime movers and shakers of Kenyan sport.

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