One of Kenya’s greatest Olympic athletes, Kipchoge Keino, universally known as ‘Kip’, is also one of the world’s most admired sporting heroes. He was one of the early role models who inspired the great Kenyan tradition of distance running.
His courage and determination in winning a gold and silver medal in the 1968 Olympics, despite suffering from a gallbladder infection, endeared him to sports lovers around the world. That drive and single-minded determination to succeed against the odds has today made him one of the great benefactors to underprivileged children in Kenya.
Kip is best known for his training at 1,800 metres above sea level, which helped introduce high-altitude training as a technique to improve running time at any altitude. A member of the Nandi tribe, he was born in Kipsano, Kenya, and worked as a physical training instructor in the police force before becoming an athlete.
Kip began his international running career in 1962 when he set a Kenyan record in the Mile. At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, he represented Kenya in their first games as an independent nation, finishing fifth in the 5,000 metres. Later in 1964, he set two world records, at 3,000m and 5,000m.
In both 1964 and 1965, at the first and second African Games, he was champion at 1,500m and 5,000m, and in the 1966 Commonwealth Games, he won gold medals in both the Mile and Three Miles.
Kip’s most remembered victory came at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, where, after having to jog a mile to the stadium because the bus from the Olympics Village was stuck in traffic, he won the 1,500m with an Olympic record time of 3 mins 34.9 secs. The mark stood until 1984. He also won the silver medal in the 5,000m, despite the gallbladder infection.
At the 1972 Olympics in Munich, he won his second Olympic gold medal in the 3,000m steeplechase and also won a silver medal in the 1,500m.
Kip retired from the track in 1973, a Kenyan hero, but there was much still to come from this remarkable man. He and his wife Phyllis purchased a farm in Eldoret, which they converted into an orphanage, the Kip Keino Children’s Home. “We started with two children, then it went to six, then ten. Now it’s up to 90. We give them shelter and love. Many of these children who lived with us as orphans have gone to university, some are doctors, and when you see them with their own families living well in society, I feel very happy,” he says.
The Keino family realised a lifelong dream in 2000 with the creation of the Kip Keino School, funded by various donations. Almost 300 children age 6-13 attend the school. In 2001 he won the Laureus Sport for Good Award for his charitable work and was elected to the Laureus World Sports Academy.