The Most Famous Kenyan Athletes of All Time

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When the history of global athletics is written, a chapter, if not pages, is reserved for Kenya. There is something quite synonymous with the Kenyan national anthem. It is played countless times during global athletic competitions. Thanks to our Kenyan athletes who have performed exemplary in their specific categories to place the country on the global map.

It feels good to see people coming from various continents to learn what it takes to become professional athletes. They look forward to learning more about Kenyan athletes’ training and diet. But do the most common foods in Kenya have a hand in this?

Most Kenyan athletes come from humble beginnings, but their prowess in athletics has earned them a good amount of money. But who are some of these notable athletes in Kenya whom we ought to thank for their hard work, determination, and patriotism.

The Most Renowned Kenyan Athletes

1. Eliud Kipchoge

Do I need to introduce him? The INEOS 1:59 hero!

Without a doubt, Kipchoge is the greatest man of all time. He is the first man in the world to run a marathon in under two hours. The world was united when he ran in Vienna, Austria, and proved to the world that no man is limited. But who is Eliud Kipchoge?

He was born in November 1984 and won his first individual world championship in 2003. Initially, Kipchoge specialized in 5000m and won various competitions. In 2012, he switched to road running, where he made the second-fastest half marathon debut at 53.25. In the following year, he participated in the Hamburg marathon. 

Chicago marathon was his first victory at a world marathon major in 2014. He went ahead to become a series champion for 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. He won the Olympic marathon in 2016. Eliud Kipchoge has also created a name for himself in the London marathon, where he has won the marathon four times.  He has only lost once in a marathon when he became second behind Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich.

2. Paul Tergat

He is among the most comprehensive runner of all time. Paul Tergat was born in June 1969 in Riwo, Baringo district, in Kenya’s then Rift Valley Province. The man realized his talent after graduating from high school. He was the first male Kenyan athlete to receive the Abebe Bakila Award from New York Roadrunners in 2010. 

This award was in recognition of his achievements in athletics. He became the first Kenyan man to set a world record in the marathon in 2003, with a time of 2:04:55.  

Besides participating in global competition, Paul Tergat was named a UN world food program ambassador against hunger in 2004. He is the founder of the Paul Tergat Foundation that aims to help disadvantaged athletes in society.

Tergat also runs a sports marketing and PR company known as Fine Touch communications. This firm works jointly with Safaricom to organize the annual sportsman of the year awards.  He is enlisted in army forces where he works at Moi airbase. 

3. Catherine Ndereba

Kenyan women athletes are not left behind. Ndereba, as the name suggests, is on the wheel.

She may have hanged her boots, but her contributions and achievements remain fresh in the minds of athletics lovers both here and abroad.  Catherine Ndereba had an outstanding career in athletics for almost a decade. She was born in July 1972 and raised in Nyeri. Ndereba won the world championships in athletics twice and won silver at the Summer Olympic Games.

 Also, she is a four-time winner of the Boston marathon.  In 2001, Ndereba broke the women’s marathon world record running 2:18:47 at the Chicago Marathon.  Sportswriter Philip Hersh described Ndereba as the greatest women’s marathoner of all time. Today, she lives a quiet life together with her husband, Antony Maina.

4. Kipchoge Keino

He was born in 1940 at Kipsamo, Nandi, Kenya. Kipchoge Keino is an athlete who has contributed immensely to the athletics world. He is a distinguished retired Kenyan track and field athlete.  Until 2017, he was the chairman of the Kenyan Olympic committee.

 Kipchoge, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, has inspired many men and women to become what they are today. He was among the 24 athletes inducted as inaugural members of the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall Of Fame. In 2016 at Rio de Janeiro, he was awarded the first Olympic laurel for his service to the Olympic movements during the official Olympic opening.

5. David Rudisha

Lekuta! This man reminds me of the 2016 Olympics.

David  Rudisha is a Kenyan middle-distance runner born in 1988.  His hard work and determination have seen him bag medals in world competitions. He is the 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion, two-time world champion (2011 and 2015), and world record holder in the 800 meters.

Rudisha holds the world’s best time in 500m with a time of 57.69 and the African record for 600m with a time of 1:13:10. He has won several awards, such as the IAAF world athlete of the year in 2010.

6. Vivian Cheruiyot

Another woman on our list. Go! Go! Vivian Go!

Vivian Cheruiyot, also known as “Pocket Rocket” has made Kenya proud. She is a long-distance runner who specializes in track and cross country running. Vivian is among the few athletes who have progressed from the junior level to currently competing in the road race.

 She began her career in 1998 when she participated in the World Cross Country Championships. After winning numerous competitions, in 2012, she was crowned with the coveted Laureus Sportswoman of the year Award.

7. Ezekiel Kemboi

Ezekiel Kemboi, born in 1982, is a Kenyan athlete who won the 3000m steeplechase at the 2004 summer Olympics. He also won the 2009 World Championships, the 2011 world championships, the 2012 summer Olympics, and the 2013 and 2015 world championships.  His personal best of 7:55:76 he set in Monaco in 2011places him as sixth fastest of all time.

8. Julius Yego

Yego is a testimony that you can use social media constructively.

Julius Yego, also nicknamed Mr. YouTube is a Kenyan athlete and field athlete specializing in the javelin throw. He learned the art of throwing the javelin by simply watching YouTube videos.

 Currently, Yego is the  African and commonwealth record holder with a personal best of 92.72m. He won silver at the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro

9. Samuel Kamau Wanjiru

Death, why did you take Samuel?

The late Samuel Kamau Wanjiru was the first Kenyan to win an Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games held in Beijing. He became the youngest gold medalist in the marathon since the year 1932.

 At the age of 18 years, Kamau broke the world record in a half marathon. That’s was not all; his London and Chicago marathon achievements are still felt up to today. Unfortunately, Kamau died under unclear circumstances at his home.

10. Pamela Jelimo

There is a reason why Ken wa Maria wanted to marry Pamela Jelimo. This lady is a gem.

Pamela, at the age of 18 years, broke the 800m world record. She also became the first Kenyan woman to win Olympic gold in Beijing. That’s not all; Jelimo was the first Kenyan to win the golden league jackpot worth one million dollars.  She has received several awards in honor of her achievements in the athletics field, such as the IAAF revelation of the year award. In 2008, she was named the Sportswoman of the year.

Final thoughts

The government should do more in honoring Kenyan athletes who have made this country proud. They have defied the odds to show us the true definition of patriotism. It is the responsibility of the athletes to nurture upcoming talents. This ensures our country’s representation in global competitions is not affected when they retire.

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