OBITUARY:Paul Kipkoech

Paul Kipkoech won the 10,000m at the 1987 World Championship in Rome. He was the first Kenyan gold-medallist at a world championship on the track but it was not so much the victory itself but the manner in which he achieved it that brought him global recognition among athletics followers.

In the early stages of the race he took the lead on a number of occasions and pushed the pace so hard that the world-class field was left with the dilemma of how to respond to his tactics. Shortly after the half-way mark he moved to the front and made the decisive burst, which no one could counter.

His lead grew as the laps ticked away as his long stride seemed to eat up the track and he eventually crossed the line in a championship-best performance of 27 minutes 38.63 seconds. His nearest challenger finished more than 10 seconds (and most of the home straight) in arrears.

As a youngster Kipkoech ran several miles each day to and from his school in Kapsabet, in the Nandi Hills, in rural west Kenya. In his mid-teens he joined the Kenyan Army, which subsidises promising runners and gives them time off to train and compete. In 1982, aged 20, he impressed the Kenyan selectors enough to be chosen to run in that year's African Championships and just missed out on the medals at both 5,000m and 10,000m. The following year he made the World Championship final at 5,000m and at the 1984 Olympics he finished fifth over the same distance.

His first major championship medal came at the 1985 World Cross Country Championships where he won a silver behind Portugal's Carlos Lopes but 1987 was his stellar year. Another silver medal at the World Cross Country Championships, behind his compatriot John Ngugi, was a prelude to his exploits on the track.

He became a sporting hero in Kenya after taking the African Games 10,000m title in front of a home audience in Nairobi, just three weeks before his world championship win, and he was unbeaten over the distance that year.

Kipkoech had the world seemingly at his feet, But, tragically, his career spiralled rapidly downwards. Shortly after winning in Rome a well-publicised brawl with a Kenyan official over missing race payments put him at odds with his country's athletics authorities and a bout of malaria caused him to drop out of the 1988 Olympic trials. Subsequently he turned his attention to running on the roads and competed in several marathons; but he could not replicate his previous successes.

Kipkoech was an introverted figure who often seemed ill at ease with the celebrity his running had brought him. In recent years he became prone to drinking bouts and died in impoverished circumstances.

Much of his money earned during the heyday of his running career was siphoned off by athletics officials, but in the late 1980s he was taken under the wing of the British agent John Bicourt, and gained some recompense for his talents.

Phil Minshull

Paul Kipkoech, athlete; born Kapsabet, Kenya 6 January 1963; married; died Kapsabet 13 March 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests