In 2005 Kenya’s Henry Wanyoike broke the visually impaired marathon world record twice in the space of a week during an amazing April. First he set a mark of 2 hrs 32.51 mins in the London Marathon on April 17, then he knocked 80 seconds of that time in Hamburg seven days later. In an excellent year for Wanyoike, he also won half-marathons in Wetzlar and Singapore and was named Kenyan Sports Person of the Year.
Even before he was a teenager, Henry was being groomed to join an elite corps of Kenyan athletes in the country that has probably produced more world-class middle-distance runners over the last 20 years than any other. Then in 1995, aged 21, he had a stroke which resulted in him becoming blind. Four years later a doctor in the hospital which he attended suggested he could still run with a guide and a tether.
Once he became familiar with using a guide, he quickly established himself as a world class non-sighted runner, earning a place in the national squad for the 5,000 metres at the Sydney Paralympics in 2000. He not only won the gold medal, but set a Paralympic record.
In 2004, he won gold medals at 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres in the Athens Paralympic Games, breaking the world records in both events. In 2004 he also won the Hong Kong Marathon, was first in the visually impaired category in the Boston Marathon and was fourth overall in the Mumbai Marathon.
Wanyoike is now an advocate for persons with a disability in Africa. He was appointed a goodwill ambassador of ‘Seeing is Believing’ in February 2005 and raises money for cataract surgery for those who cannot afford it. His target is to help one million people over the next three years. He also works with the Clover/Becker Foundation to provide cows for the poor.