Kipchoge Keino looks back on extensive career

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Kipchoge Keino looks back on extensive career


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Retired Kenyan 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 selected to the Laureus World Sports Academy.
  • For a man born 82 years ago at a grain store [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 appear to him.

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

Through his triumphs, he opened the doors to opportunities 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 selected to the Laureus World Sports Academy.

For a man born 82 years ago at a grain store [Kipchoge means him who is born near a granary]he has done well for himself.

His body has bent slightly with age, but his face seems to have averted age.

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

He met JACKSON BIKO at the Safari Park Hotel.

***

When did you realize you were good at running?

When I was growing up, I ran to school. I ran from home to school in the morning. I ran home for lunch. So after that I ran back to school. I represented my school in sports. I then started competing in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania before becoming independent.

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

I knew I was good when I could compete at all those levels and beat the competitors.

You won your first gold medal 53 years ago. When you think about that feeling now of winning a gold in the Olympics, is the memory so 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 the Commonwealth Games, gold in the World Cup and gold in the Olympics.

The Olympic gold was in 1968. The whole of Africa’s gold medal was in 1965. Gold in the Commonwealth Games was in 1966. And it all depends on how you prepare mentally and physically.

Which of all the races you have run was the hardest?

Olympics in Mexico in 1968. It is a high-altitude area and it also had many world record holders. I collapsed in my first final due to stomach pain. I became number two.

I’m sure you’ve traveled a lot around the world …

Well, I have traveled to most countries in the world. I have been to over 187 countries. I have seen how these countries are developing. 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 live on green land. We should not beg when we have sun, 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 it?

My first trips abroad were to Israel and the United Arab Emirates in 1959 and 1960.

What was your first feeling when you went abroad?

Well, that 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 a lot of clothes, and so going abroad and seeing people wearing a different outfit today and another tomorrow and then another the other day … was enlightening.

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

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

It’s easier now because the facilities are there. In my time we had nothing. Sometimes I ran without shoes.

Now they have good shoes and training facilities. Today, sports are a business. You can make money and live comfortably. It is a much better time to play sports now.

So do you think you are naturally talented or you are a hard worker?

It is through hard work and interest. I was running 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 for the most part it’s hard work.

Who is the most important person you have met?

I have met several people. I’ve met the queen, I’ve met kings. I have met many heads of state. The other day, Obama {former US President Barack Obama} invited me to his home in the United States.

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

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

I have also interacted with many leaders from Japan and Germany. Sport has given me the opportunity to see a lot and meet a lot of people.

Who is the person you were nervous about meeting?

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

Is it hard to be celebrity?

Well, it’s not hard. It’s harder to be humble.

Have you ever drunk alcohol?

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

Do you miss it now?

None.

Do you not drink wine at all?

Nothing.

When people meet you, what is the one thing they like to ask you about?

Things about my life and my family. I tell them I run KipKeino Orphanage. 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 country 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 greatest achievement in life that you are proud of?

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

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

Well, I do not know if I was born a master, but I worked a lot for myself to be able to achieve the good results.

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

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

Is the world a better place right now?

The world must be taken care of to become a better world. It requires unity. It requires humanity.

That we are all human. 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 community?

Do you train?

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

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