When Ian Keino, the son of Kenya’s legendary athlete Kipchoge Keino remembered the splendid performances produced by his father and other retired stars in the 1960s and 1970s, he thought of something.
In 1996, he started collecting signatures from the legends, on a book, and yesterday was the time to unveil the collection.
Within the book titled Kenya: The Beautiful, the who-is-who is Kenya’s athletics history has penned their signatures, in their own handwriting.
Among signatures that stand out in the book are those of Naftali Temu, the last Kenyan man to win 10,000m at the Olympics in 1968 and Ben Jipcho, the first Kenyan to win 3,000m steeplechase. The two have since died.
Former International Olympic Committee (IOC) Presidents Juan Antonio Samaranch and Jacques Rogge, who have also passed on, signed the book before they died.
Athletes sign on a page with pictures or text about the Kenyan history – ranging from tourist attraction sites and wildlife.
For example, Moses Tanui, who is the first man to run a half marathon under one hour (59:47) in 1993 in Stramilano penned his signature on a page which has a scenic picture of Mount Kenya.
The book has more than 100 signatures of Kenyan athletes, most of them represented the country in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
Yesterday, marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge and two-time Olympic champion Kipchoge Keino signed the book during its unveiling. The book was also handed over to the Kipchoge Keino Foundation and Eliud Kipchoge Foundation, which were founded by the retired athlete and the world record holder.
“We created this book so that we have a record of our own athletes, what they have done in events and what they have done for their country and what they have achieved in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games,” Kip Keino said during the signing ceremony in Eldoret.
Kip Keino used the opportunity to call for more sports facilities in the country, saying Kenya has adequate talent. He challenged the country to put in place facilities in schools to tap talent.
“Take for example an event like swimming or tennis or basketball. Talents in such events require a playground to perform. I feel that we have done our best but there is a need to do more,” the legend said.
He urged top athletes such as Eliud Kipchoge to give back to society by nurturing talent when they retire from active sport.
Two-time Olympic marathon champion Eliud said the book covers the sports and tourism history of Kenya.
“The book is about the country, Kenya; the wild animals, the conservancies and all the country’s tribes. On top of it, all the former and present champions, including the deceased have signed it.
Eliud said the two foundations have been given the greenlight to proceed with auctioning the book.
He said the proceeds will be used in youth empowerment, improvement of health and environmental conservation – which are the pillars of the two foundations.
Ian Keino who has been collecting the signatures from the legendary athletes for the last 25 years said the book will soon be sold to the highest bidder through an auction, during a marathon in the USA or any sporting event of a global nature.
“We are glad that we had the opportunity to collect their history, through their signatures when they were still alive,” he said.
He continued: “I gave the book to someone to collect signatures for me and the book disappeared. I lost hope of finding it and one of my friends, after ten years, told me that he saw the book somewhere and brought it to me.”
At some point during the collection of signatures from the legends, Ian said, the book went missing and could not be traced for ten years, between 2004 and 2014.
“To my surprise, it was still intact and I have kept it until today when we decided to donate it to both Kip Keino and Eliud Kipchoge Foundation.”
He said Eliud Kipchoge and Kip Keino will decide on the international event where the book will be sold.