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Tributes flow for former Kenyan Athletics administrator John Velzian who died age 93

ATHLETICS By Odero Charles | January 22nd 2022 | 3 min read
Ex-Kenyan Athletics administrator John Velzian [photo courtesy]

National Olympic Committee of Kenya President Paul Tergat on Thursday led Kenyans in mourning former Kenyan Athletics administrator John Velzian who died at the age of 93.

Velzian died on Thursday morning while undergoing treatment at a hospital in Nairobi.

In a press release sent to Standard Sports desk, Tergat said Kenya’s athletics prowess history cannot be written without Velzian’s indelible footprints.

“His dedication and passion towards sports will greatly be missed. He raised the athletics standards to another level and in 1965 steered Kenya to her first Africa Senior Athletics Championship and nurtured stars like the honorary legend, Kipchoge Keino,” said Tergat.

Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Heritage Amina Mohamed also eulogize Velzian for his contribution to Kenyan athletics.

“Cabinet Secretary is saddened by the passing of legendary athletics administrator and Kenya’s first national athletics team head coach John Velzian, who is also a former director at World Athletics Regional Development Centre - Kasarani, is known for steering Kenya to her first Africa Senior Athletics Championships in 1965 and nurturing talent that turned into international stars like the great Kipchoge Keino,” read the note from the Ministry.

On his part, Athletics Kenya president Jack Tuwei paid tribute to Velzian saying: "I think nobody in our current environment can match his contributions to the development of athletics in our country and Africa."

Velzian once served as IAAF regional director in Nairobi and had been awarded the World Athletics Honorary Plaque and World Athletics Coaching Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 2011, Velzian received a lifetime achievement award for coaching from World Athletics in recognition of his contribution to the sport.

He helped Kenya Athletics bid and organise the 2007 World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Mombasa. He was also the race director of the Nairobi Marathon.

Velzian, who was British but made his life in Kenya, had a huge impact during his 60-year career in athletics, particularly in Africa.

After becoming a physical education officer for Kenya in 1958, he remained following the country’s independence in 1963 to develop the nation’s athletics talent, particularly in long distance running. It was around that period that he discovered and began working with athletes such as the great Kip Keino, who would go on to win Olympic titles at the 1968 and 1972 Games.

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