Kipchoge Keino the finest athlete Kenya has had

Legendary athlete Kipchoge Keino follows proceedings at the Athletics Kenya Weekend Meeting held at the Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret on May 22, 2015. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |

What you need to know:

  • To this day, I still think that Kipchoge Keino is Kenya’s greatest athlete.
  • I say that because Kenya came out of the wilderness and smashed the international athletic scene in the 1960s and 1970s.

On Saturday, June 4, 1966, at the Kenyan Students’ Games (in their infancy at the time) being held at the Kenya Institute of Administration athletics track in Kabete two things happened: Kipchoge Keino, who was already a household name in Kenya, ran the fastest mile by an African, by clocking 4 minutes and 0.2 seconds, 2.8 seconds faster than his first Kenya record for the distance.

He had run his first sub-four minute mile in August the previous year at London’s White City where he clocked 3 minutes 54.6 seconds. A truly fast time was difficult at Kabete, which I think was a grass track at the time.
The second was the emergence of a young schoolboy, Daniel Rudisha. Rudisha senior is father of David Rudisha, the reigning Olympics and World 800m champion. He is currently working his way back to competitive running, following an injury a year or two ago.

My young Daniel Rudisha won the hearts of his fellow students when he was narrowly beaten by the legendary Wilson Kiprugut Chuma in the quarter mile (440 yards). The young man was full of promise and as the crowd reserved it’s loudest cheers for him. Both runners made the Commonwealth Games standard on their first outing.

MAN TO WATCH

Wilson said of young Rudisha: “Daniel will be a man to watch. He ran very well and might have beaten me. It was a good race.”

And Wilson had every reason to be apprehensive because Rudisha beat him in the 220 yards sprint.

John Velzean, the Kenya coach at the time, was perhaps his biggest fan and told me at the time there was no reason he wouldn’t one day break the 400m world record or even the 800m world mark. Rudisha senior was a quiet achiever and a quick learner. Velzean said Rudisha was easy to coach.

Rudisha senior went to win a silver medal in the 4X400 relay at the Mexico Olympics in 1968. I lost track of him after I moved to the News section at the Nation. I had almost forgotten about him until world record breaker David lit up the world’s athletic tracks.

To this day, I still think that Kipchoge Keino is Kenya’s greatest athlete. I say that because Kenya came out of the wilderness and smashed the international athletic scene in the 1960s and 1970s.

Kip went on to win the Mile and 3 Mile events at Kingston, 1,500m gold and 5,000m silver in Mexico, 1,500m silver and the 3,000m steeplechase gold in Munich.

After the steeplechase race, I sat with an ecstatic Kip while he waited for a regulatory drug test. Since 1966, Kenya went on to win glory consistently at subsequent world events. Now it is onward to Rio.

Cyprian Fernandes was one of the first sports journalists hired by Nation Media Group in 1960

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