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2016 Getty Images
Date
09 Aug 2018
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Olympism in Action Forum
Olympism in Action Forum

#UnitedBy Olympism: Kipchoge Keino

Kipchoge Keino’s Olympic career didn’t end when he retired from track and field in 1973. After representing his home country of Kenya in three Olympic Games, he has served as the Chairman of the Kenyan Olympic Committee and established a foundation that truly embodies the spirit of Olympism. 

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In the run-up to the Olympism in Action Forum in Buenos Aires, we shine a spotlight on groups and individuals who, inspired by the power of sport to contribute to a better world, have used their initiative to organise projects and programmes to effect change at all levels.

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Few runners have made their mark on Olympic history like Kipchoge Keino. As well as setting world records in both the 3,000 and 5,000 metres and winning gold medals in both the 1968 Mexico City and 1972 Munich Olympic Summer Games, he’s had an admirable and inspiring career.

Kipchoge has faced his share of hurdles, but has taken them in stride. When he was young, his parents died and he grew up in the care of an aunt. At his first Olympic Games, in Tokyo in 1964, he missed qualifying for the 1,500 metres final by one place.

Even as a well-established runner, Kipchoge still had to adapt to succeed. Though originally a 1,500 and 5,000 metre runner, he picked up a new race, the steeplechase, in advance of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, because the 1,500 metre and 5,000 metre races were too close together in the programme.

“I had to train more for steeplechase, so to win a gold medal in steeplechase and win a silver in the 1,500 metres was a great achievement for me. It showed how much I had to change to be better at steeplechase,” he said. “This flexibility is so important in athletes – you must be able to change your training and compete in another event.”

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Committed to Olympism

Though Kipchoge retired from athletics in 1973, he has maintained a strong connection with the Olympic Movement and the spirit of Olympism. By serving as the Chairman of the Kenyan Olympic Committee, he has ensured that Olympism is a key value in his home country of Kenya.

It is important for all of us to be able to get together and change the world through the Olympic Movement Kipchoge Keino

“Olympism is so important for me, my country and the other countries in the world. Through the Olympic Movement, we’re all able to participate and improve the standard of the Olympic Games and athletics worldwide. This is the unity of the Olympic Movement.”

Kipchoge also sees the importance of countries coming together to unite through athletics. “The Olympics have done great things in bringing in countries and letting them participate without politics getting in the way. They show fair play to the youth of the world. Win or lose, you shake hands and learn friendship. It is important for all of us to be able to get together and change the world through the Olympic Movement. Unity among the National Olympic Committees and the IOC is needed so that we work and speak in one voice of improvement for the Olympic Movement. There's a lot to be done.”

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Empowering young people through the Kipkeino Foundation

Throughout his successes, Kipchoge never forgot his roots; and so with his wife, philanthropist Phyllis Keino, he established the Kipkeino Foundation, which is sponsored by the Segal Family Foundation. The Foundation created the Lewa Children's Home for orphans and the Kipkeino Primary and Secondary Schools. 

“Through the Foundation, we have done a lot for the needy members of our society. We have taken care of over 6,000 youths and given them an education; and some of them have finished high school while others have university degrees. We have also been able to produce gold, silver and bronze medallists and finalists in the Olympics.”

Keino believes in the necessity of empowering young athletes. “For the young athletes I say: We need you; the world needs you; the Olympic Movement needs you. We need unity, and we need to work together to be able to improve the standards of sport worldwide.”

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