The African nation that has most impressed the sports world is Kenya, which achieved independence a mere three years ago this month and a year later became a republic within the British Commonwealth. Until then it had been a protectorate and colony, known primarily as one of the foremost of big-game centers, the happy hunting ground of Hemingway and the land of Mau Mau terrorists. Larger than France, it is situated astride the equator and fronts on the Indian Ocean. Its climate and geography range from an arid northern desert, which constitutes three-fifths of the country, through a cool, salubrious central plateau and on to the hot and humid shores of Lake Victoria, a body of water only slightly smaller than Lake Superior. Kenya was first opened to white settlement in 1902, but it was not until the last decade that some of the courage and energy of its formidable tribesmen was turned toward modern sport, especially—thanks to a remarkable British coach—to track and field, in which Kenya has won international acclaim. The man throwing the hammer above is Kenya's champion, Kipruto Torror, an army sergeant from the Nandi tribe, who by Western standards is only competent. But Kenya's runners are far more than competent. Typical of them is the young athlete at right, Daniel Rudisha. A Masai—a tribe whose superbly conditioned warriors have long been feared throughout East Africa—he was an unknown and essentially untrained athlete a year ago. Found by Kenya's coach, John Velzian, he developed so quickly that in his first major competition, the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica, he came within inches of winning a bronze medal in the 440. Next stop: the Olympics.
Now a college student, Rudisha dresses in cowskin garment of a Masai warrior during visit to a village track meet. Emblems show tests owner has passed. Among requirements is killing a lion with a spear.
The beautiful Nairobi Racecourse runs on alternate weekends, attracting crowds of 5,000 a day, half of whom are Africans. Thatched roofs (right) cover small stands where bettors can sit to study horses in paddock. Meanwhile, as everywhere, children find amusement.
There is much amateur boxing competition among African countries. Here Kenya's Flyweight Champion John Kamau (left) loses Commonwealth Games trials bout to Peter Munene. Some expert golfers have developed, too. Above, Burhan Marjan tees off at Sigona.
December 19, 1966
Kipchoge Keino, second fastest miler in the world, works at his job of drilling police recruits at Kiganjo training school near Mount Kenya. In his room, he stands below picture of President Jomo Kenyatta and displays trophies, including panda given him by Swedish fans.