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Kip made his name in 1968 Mexico Games

ATHLETICS By Kimathi Kamau | March 12th 2017 | 3 min read
KIPCHOGE KEINO Athletics legend Kipchoge Keino. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

The 1968 Mexico Olympics marked the occasion when the world fell in love with Kipchoge Hezekiah 'Kip' Keino. Born on January 17, 1940,  the then 28-year-old uncoached athlete from Nandi County crafted one of the most enduring stories in the history of the Games.

Though Kip was ultimately one of the finest distance runners of his time—perhaps one of the finest of all time—he didn't achieve significant results until the 1964 Tokyo Olympics where he narrowly missed qualifying for the 1,500m final.

A year later, in 1965, Kip broke two distance running world records (the 1,500m and 5,000m) at the 1965 All-Africa Games.

A year after that impressive feat, during the 1966 Commonwealth Games, Kip won a double gold in the mile and three-mile sprint events.

Two years later, he cemented his legend in athletics when he travelled to Mexico City for the 1968 Olympics where the for the entire duration of the Games, he was suffering from crippling gallstones but he beat all that by running in three—yes three—distance events.

In the 10,000m, Kip literally collapsed, having led the 24-lap race until 1,200m to go and by stepping off of the track after he fell, he automatically disqualified himself but nonetheless, stumbled back to finish the race although it would not count as teammate Naftali Temu won Kenya‘s first ever gold.

He bounced back to win silver in 5,000m two days after he collapsed, losing the crown to Tunisian Mohamed Gammoudi by just a second, but determined to win gold, he eyed the 1,500m.

On the bus ride to the Olympic Stadium for the final, the bus got stuck in traffic and realising the bus was going to be late, Kip got off and ran the remaining two miles to the Olympic Stadium, carrying his equipment.

In the 1,500m, Keino tried to neutralise the finishing kick of the favourite, Jim Ryun, who had not lost in three years by building up a huge lead. His tactic worked and he won by 20 metres, the largest margin of victory in the history of the event.

He returned to the 1972 Munich Games, aged 34 where Kip entered the steeplechase even though he had little experience in the event. Still, he was able to outkick teammate Ben Jipcho and win another gold medal.

Six days after this victory, he added a silver medal in the 1,500m.

Kip and his wife, Phyllis established the Lewa Children‘s Home for orphans, the Kip Keino Primary School in 1999, and the Kip Keino Secondary School in 2009.

His son Martin Keino retraced his athletics footsteps and having won the American collegiate titles in 1994 and 1995, he missed the Atlanta Olympics narrowly at the Kenyan trials having turned professional in 1996.

At the Rio 2016 Games, Kip was once again at the podium to receive the honours as the first ever Olympics Laureate, an award created by IOC President Thomas Bach, to recognise outstanding contribution to sport and community service.

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