Kip Keino, 1987 Sportsman of the Year
by Liz Colville
In Kenya, the name Kipchoge "Kip" Keino is synonymous with long-distance running. His four Olympic victories include two gold medals, but it is his contributions off the track that have endeared him to his countrymen. Keino's world records in long-distance running opened the door to a competitive category now dominated by East Africans, and his support for other runners has continued long after his retirement.
Beginning in the 1960s, Keino's determination to succeed, combined with his natural ability, contributed to a remarkable career. In 1964, he competed at his first Olympic Games in Tokyo at the age of 24. The following year, he broke two world records: the 3,000 m in 7:39.6 and the 5,000 m in 13:24.2. Read more about Keino's accomplishments in CNN's 2004 article.
Keino earned numerous medals running against some of the best runners of the century. One in particular was American Jim Ryun. The rivalry between these two athletes commenced in a brilliant duel in 1967 at a White City competition for the mile in London. Watch as Keino moves into second position in the latter half of the race and tries to overtake Ryun in the final leg. A video of the exciting race is available on YouTube.
The close loss for Keino in London made him determined to beat Ryun in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Despite being advised not to run due to abdominal pain, Keino made the last-minute decision to join the race. His refusal to listen to his doctors allowed him the opportunity to beat Ryun and win the gold medal for the 1,500 m race.
Although he officially retired from competitive running in 1973, Keino is widely considered the “father” of Kenyan distance running. Fellow Kenyan Olympic medalist Mike Boit said in an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Keino "put this country on the map. He's our national treasure." An article in The Japan Times Online went further, saying, “Kenya has built a worldwide dynasty in distance running. He [Keino] is their inspiration.”
Keino has continued to contribute to the sport through his training center, the Kip Keino High Performance Training Centre. Located in Eldoret, Kenya, the center serves as a haven for athletes from all over East Africa. On the same site as the center are an orphanage and a school, all part of the Kip Keino Foundation. Helping younger generations is close to Keino’s heart; his parents died when he was a boy and he was raised by an aunt. Visit the Kip Keino Fondation Web site to read a message from Keino and learn more about the Training Centre.
In 1987, Sports Illustrated awarded its "Sportsmen and Sportswomen of the Year" honor to Keino and seven other "Athletes Who Care" for their humanitarian efforts. According to the Sports Illustrated Web site, Keino “became ‘father’ to dozens of orphaned children in Kenya, by supporting them financially and giving them shelter in his own home.”