It is no surprise for a Kenyan in a foreign country to get the question… “Are you from Kenya? Do you run?” It is well known that Kenyan athletics stars are world-class. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Kenya won a total of 10 medals (four gold, four silver, and two bronze) and at the 2016 Rio Olympics, they won a total of 13 medals (six gold, four silver, and one bronze).
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In the past, African nations have produced world-class athletes, but no other nation has had the capability of producing champions year in and year out like Kenya. So, why do Kenyan athletics stars keep dominating the world when it comes to track athletics? There are a few theories that try to explain why that is. There are those who say it is genes, while others say that most of the runners are from the Rift Valley, a part of the country that is located at high altitude, giving the athletes an advantage.
Kenya’s government has put in a lot of effort to support our athletes while inspiring young athletes to stay motivated and work hard to achieve higher goals. We will look at five of the greatest Kenyan athletes of all time, both young and old. Therefore, the following list only serves as a taste of the talent we have in this country.
List of Top 5 Kenyan athletics stars
History was made as Eliud Kipchoge became the 1st human to break the 2 hour marathon barrier during the INEOS 1:59 Challenge. During this time, the 34-year-old proved No Human is Limited. As a child, he ran long distances to and from school. At age 16, he met Kenyan runner Patrick Sang, who would become his longtime coach. At the 2003 world championships, Kipchoge narrowly defeated Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj in the 5,000 metres. Kipchoge won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and a silver at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing specializing in the distance. He also won a silver medal at the 2007 world championships.
Kipchoge failed to make the Kenyan team in 2012, and turned to marathon running. It was in Hamburg the following year that he competed in his first competition of this sort. He won, finishing in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 30 seconds. Soon after, he raced in the Berlin Marathon and placed second. Kipchoge began his unprecedented winning streak in 2014, when he won the Rotterdam Marathon in the Netherlands. The following year, he won marathons in Chicago (2014), Berlin (2015, 2017, and 2018), and London (2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019).
During his 2018 victory in Berlin, he set a new world record with 2 hours, 1 minute, 39 seconds. In addition, he won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Kipchoge finished eighth in the London Marathon in 2020, his first loss in more than six years. He attributed the poor performance to an ear infection. He won his second Olympic gold medal in the marathon at the 2020 Games in Tokyo (which were held in 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic).
Helen Obiri is a Kenyan middle-distance runner who won gold at the 2017 World Championships in London after winning gold in the 5000 metres. Defending her title at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, she set a new championship record. Over the same distance (5000 metres) Obiri also won silver medals in the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics. At the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, she won the 3000 metres race. She holds the Kenyan National Record for the mile, 3000 metres and 5000 metres events.
On 30 March 2019 she won the women’s senior race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championship. The event took place in Aarhus, Denmark. She won the 10.2 km race in a time of 36:14. New African magazine named Obiri one of the Top 100 most influential Africans in 2017. As a representative of Kenya at the 2020 Summer Olympics, she won a silver medal in the 5000 metres event, finishing behind Sifan Hassan.
Kipchoge Keino is a retired Kenyan athlete. He was the chairman of the Kenyan Olympic Committee (KOC) until 29 September 2017. He is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and among the first in a long line of successful middle and long distance runners to come from the country and has helped and inspired many of his fellow countrymen and women to become the athletics force that they are today. Kipchoge Keino became an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in the year 2000. In 2012, he was one of 24 athletes inducted as inaugural members of the IAAF Hall of Fame.
Kenya champion for peace through sport, Tegla Loroupe.
History was made by Tegla Loroupeat in 1994 in the New York City Marathon when she became the first African woman to win a major marathon title. Over the years, African men have had great success over distance, but now a female compatriot can join in the fun. Loroupe has won several major marathons and broken a number of world records. Loroupe has since retired from professional running and is working to advance peace, prosperity, and economic prosperity in Kenya and Africa.
Henry Wanyoike is a Kenyan long-distance runner that has defied all odds. He is blind and competes in the Paralympics and in marathon racing. In 1995, Henry was hit with life’s toughest blows: losing his vision when he suffered a stroke that affected his optic nerve and left him blind—a devastating setback at just 21.
The following period was one of pain and darkness, what Wanyoike called “a tough beginning,” until he decided to join a rehabilitation program that helped him adjust to life without his sight. In that program, he was able to interact with other blind people, which gave him hope that he could live a full life, including getting back to his passion for running.
Currently, Wanyoike represents the visually impaired at the Paralympic world championship. Henry has run countless marathons around the world with the help of a guide, winning medals and other accolades along the way. He was also named UN Person of the Year and Kenyan Sportsman of the Year in 2005 after breaking two world records in one week!
So there you have it! Our greatest Kenyan athletics stars of all time, who have shone and represented their country in numerous athletic competitions around the world! Check out kenyahouse.co.ke for more information about these and other great men and women.