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Kenya’s athletic fraternity was thrown into another mourning session after world multiple record-breaker Henry Rono died on Thursday, February 15, 2024.

Rono died at the age of 72, and his death comes after the country was thrown into a state of shock following Kelvin Kiptum’s demise last Sunday.

Who is Henry Rono?
The Kiptaragon-born athletics star made history by competing in the 3000m, 3000m steeplechase, 5000m, and 10,000m, and his records in the 3000m and 3000m steeplechase stood for more than a decade.

He overcame a bicycle accident and went on to enjoy a fulfilling career in the world of athletics.

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The 1952-born star joined the Kenya Army in 1973, where he perfected his career, and although he was selected for the 1976 Olympic Games in the 3000m steeplechase and 5000m, he did not make it to Montreal because of the Kenyan boycott.

Records
He won the first of three NCAA cross-country titles that year and retained the crown in 1977 before completing his hat-trick in 1979.

Rono did not stop there, as he also became the NCAA indoor 3000m champion in 1977 and won NCAA 3000m steeplechase titles in 1978 and 1979.

On April 8, 1978, the Kenyan achieved the first of his world records in Berkeley, California. Racing on the Edwards Field track at the University of California, the 26-year-old physical education and psychology sophomore clocked 13:08.4 for 5000m, improving the record that had been set by Dick Quax the previous year by four-and-a-half seconds.

Inspired, Rono set his focus on the 3000m steeplechase record, and on May 13 in Seattle, he crossed the finish line in 8:05.4 to take 2.6 seconds off the almost two-year-old record that had been set by Anders Garderud.

Rono improved the world 10,000m record by a remarkable eight seconds, running 27:22.47 at Cricketer Place in Vienna on June 11 to smash the previous record of 27:30.47 set by Samson Kimobwa one year earlier.

At the Bislett Games in Oslo on June 27, Rono ran 7:32.1 and shaved more than three seconds off Brendan Foster’s almost four-year-old record.

Rono racked up a win streak of 31 outdoor races in 1978, including at the All-Africa Games in Algiers, where he claimed a 3000m steeplechase and 10,000m double, and at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, where he won the 3000m steeplechase and the 5000m.

After retiring, Rono became a teacher and a coach.

“My two dreams were created in the 1960s. I became a professional teacher and a track champion. The running profession came first in the early 1970s and ended 25 years later.

“The teaching profession began in the 1990s, and today, I enjoy it much better than the achievement of athletic celebrity,” Rono told World Athletics in a previous interview.

—PD

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