Kipchoge Keino looking back at extensive career

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Kipchoge Keino looking back at extensive career


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Retired Kenyan track and field athlete Kipchoge Keino during the interview at the Safari Park Hotel on April 22, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

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Summary

  • He and his late wife run an orphanage and schools.
  • In 2001, he won the Laureus Sport for Good Award for his charitable work and was elected to the Laureus World Sports Academy.
  • For a man who was born 82 years ago, by a granary [Kipchoge means him who is born near a granary]he has done well for himself.

Here comes Kipchoge Keino, who has been a legend for so long, that his greatness does not register for him.

He was a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time Olympic silver medalist in 1968 and 1972.

Through his triumphs, he opened the doors of possibilities for Kenyan athletes.

He and his late wife run an orphanage and schools. In 2001, he won the Laureus Sport for Good Award for his charitable work and was elected to the Laureus World Sports Academy.

For a man who was born 82 years ago, by a granary [Kipchoge means him who is born near a granary]he has done well for himself.

His body has slightly bowed with age but his face seems to have successfully fended off the age.

His mind is still crisp with dates and events dating back decades ago. He was in town to launch the Kipkeino Classics happening next week on May 7.

He met JACKSON BIKO at Safari Park Hotel.

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When did you realize that you were good at running?

Growing up, I used to run to school. I ran from home to school in the morning. I ran back home for lunch. Then after that, I ran back to school. I represented my school in sports. I then started competing in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, before independence.

After independence, I was able to represent Kenya in various events, defeating athletes from Uganda, Tanzania, then going to Africa Games, to the Commonwealth Games and then finally to the Olympic Games.

I knew I was good when I could compete in all these levels and beat competitors.

You won your first gold medal 53 years ago. When you think of that feeling now of winning a gold in the Olympics, has the memory faded or is it still fresh?

It takes a lot of training and time to win gold. I won several gold medals. Gold in All Africa Games, gold in Commonwealth Games, gold in the world championship, and gold in the Olympics.

The Olympic gold was in 1968. The All Africa gold medal was in 1965. Gold in the Commonwealth games was in 1966. And everything depends on how you prepare yourself mentally, and physically.

Of all the races you’ve run, which one was the most difficult?

The Olympics in Mexico in 1968. It’s a high-altitude area and also it had many world record holders. I collapsed in my first final due to abdominal pains. I finished second.

I’m sure you’ve traveled extensively around the world …

Well, I’ve traveled to most of the countries in the world. I’ve been to over 187 countries. I have seen how these countries are developed. But it also made me realize how good our country is.

We have sun for 12 hours, we have the wind, we have water, we’re living on green land. We should not be begging when we have solar, wind, and fresh water in our lakes. How lucky we are. God has given us the best land. We have trees …

Do you remember the first time you went abroad and where was that?

My first trip outside the country was to Israel and the United Arab Emirates in 1959 and 1960.

What was your first feeling when you went abroad?

Well, it was wonderful! It was my first time on a plane. Just seeing people from different parts of the world and how different their lives were from our lives.

I did not grow up with many clothes and so going abroad and seeing people wearing a different cloth today and a different tomorrow and then a different one the other day… was enlightening.

I had never been to a hotel but abroad I lived in a big one. You learn a lot by seeing how others live.

Is it harder or easier to compete now as an athlete?

It is easier now because the facilities are there. During my time, we did not have anything. Sometimes I ran without shoes.

Now they have good shoes and training facilities. Today sports is a business. You can earn money and live comfortably. It’s a much better time to be in sports now.

So do you think you’re naturally talented or you’re a hard worker?

It is through hard work and interest. I ran without shoes when I was doing school competitions. You can not do that if you do not have the interest. I think it’s partly talent and partly hard work but mostly it’s hard work.

Who is the most important person you’ve met?

I’ve met several people. I’ve met the Queen, I’ve met Kings. I’ve met many Heads of State. The other day Obama {Former US President Barack Obama} invited me to his home in the US.

I stayed there for three days. I used to play golf with Ronald Regan {40th president of the US from 1981 to 1989} in California.

I was also invited by Queen Elizabeth to the Queen’s Palace for meals.

I’ve also interacted with many leaders from Japan, and Germany. Sports has allowed me to see a lot and meet a lot of people.

Who is the one person you were nervous to meet?

The Queen. Because she’s the queen of England.

Is it hard being a celebrity?

Well, it’s not hard. It’s harder being humble.

Have you ever drank alcohol?

I did when I was young but I do not drink now. I stopped when I was about 16.

Do you miss it now?

No.

You do not drink wine at all?

Nothing.

When people meet you, what’s the one thing they like asking you?

Things about my life, and my family. I tell them that I run KipKeino Children’s Home. I have two schools, KipKeino Primary, KipKeino High School. And I live on a farm.

We have 500 acres where KipKeino Primary School is built. I have 300 acres where KipKeino High School is. And I have a land where I plant tea. We take care of the dairy animals. We make cheese, yogurt, and fermented milk. I like living on the farm.

What do you think is your one biggest achievement in life that you’re proud of?

What I have achieved through sports is the most important. It made me see the other parts of the world and see the competitiveness of others. I built great friendships. I learned from interacting with others.

Are you born a champion or do you have to work towards this?

Well, I do not know whether I was born a champion but I did work a lot for myself to be able to get those good results.

You are 82 years old. What is your dream now?

My dream is to see my family living well, see them do something for their own families.

Is the world a better place right now?

The world needs to be taken care of or to be a better world. It requires unity. It requires humanity.

That we are all human beings. We came to this world with nothing, and we will leave this world with nothing. So how can we be able to improve members of our society?

Do you exercise?

I walk. I work on the farm. I take care of my animals and so forth.

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