Kipchoge "Kip" Keino was a Kenyan
middle distance runner. Keino's victory in the 1500 meters at the Mexico City
Olympics in 1968, defeating American world record
holder Jim Ryun
, signalled the start of a track
era in which Kenyan runners would dominate the distance events.
Keino's victory was an amazing accomplishment. It was all the more amazing given his background and the circumstances. Orphaned at age 3, he grew up to be a policeman. At the 1968 Olympics he was suffering from gallbladder problems. Doctors told him he might die if he ran.
Kip Keino ignored their advice. In his first event, the 10,000 meters, the pain got so bad he fell -- while leading -- and was disqualified. A few days later he won a silver medal in the 5000 meters. Finally, acceding to doctors orders, Keino decided to skip the 1500. But on the day of the race he went to the stadium - jogging the final mile. Arriving minutes before the start of the 1500, Keino decided to race after all -- and won the gold medal.
At the 1972 Olympics he won a gold medal in the 3000 meter steeplechase and a silver in the 1500 meters. His Olympic success made the native Nandi tribesman a national hero in his homeland.
Keino retired to a farm in Kenya where he and his wife have raised 68 abandoned or orphaned children.