The Most Famous

ATHLETES from Kenya

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This page contains a list of the greatest Kenyan Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 3,055 Athletes, 93 of which were born in Kenya. This makes Kenya the birth place of the 5th most number of Athletes behind Russia and United Kingdom.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Kenyan Athletes of all time. This list of famous Kenyan Athletes is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Kenyan Athletes.

Photo of Kipchoge Keino

1. Kipchoge Keino (1940 - )

With an HPI of 63.11, Kipchoge Keino is the most famous Kenyan Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 35 different languages on wikipedia.

Kipchoge Hezekiah Keino (born 17 January 1940) is a retired Kenyan track and field athlete. He was the chairman of the Kenyan Olympic Committee (KOC) until 29 September 2017. A two-time Olympic gold medalist, Keino was among the first in a long line of successful middle and long distance runners to come from the country and has helped and inspired many of his fellow countrymen and women to become the athletics force that they are today. In 2000, he became an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In 2012, he was one of 24 athletes inducted as inaugural members of the IAAF Hall of Fame.

Photo of Ben Jipcho

2. Ben Jipcho (1943 - 2020)

With an HPI of 62.14, Ben Jipcho is the 2nd most famous Kenyan Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

Benjamin Wabura Jipcho (1 March 1943 – 24 July 2020) was a track and field athlete from Kenya, who won the silver medal in the 3000 metres steeplechase at the 1972 Summer Olympics, behind teammate Kipchoge Keino.Jipcho won the 5000 metres race in the 1973 All-Africa Games. He also won the gold medal in the 5000 m. and 3000 m. steeplechase, and the bronze medal in the 1500 metres at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand. Jipcho may be as well known for his role in Keino's victory over Jim Ryun in the high altitude 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City as for his own athletic accomplishments. Sacrificing his own chances for a medal to team tactics, he pulled Keino through a 56-second first 400 metres, before being passed by his teammate with 800 metres to go and drifting back into the pack. By that point, Keino had established a lead of 20 metres or more, which Ryun's famous finishing speed could not erase. Jipcho later apologized to Ryun for acting as Keino's rabbit. He was later quoted: "Running for money doesn't make you run fast. It makes you run first."His granddaughter Esther Chemutai is also a runner, while he was a distant uncle to the siblings Linet Masai and Moses Masai.He won the silver medal in the 3000m steeplechase at the 1970 Commonwealth Games held in Edinburgh, Scotland, finishing in front of fellow Kenyan competitor and the winner of the Gold Medal in the event at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Amos Biwott, who this time collected bronze. According to his daughter, he died of cancer in Fountain Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya.

Photo of Eliud Kipchoge

3. Eliud Kipchoge (1984 - )

With an HPI of 58.75, Eliud Kipchoge is the 3rd most famous Kenyan Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 42 different languages.

Eliud Kipchoge (English: EL-ee-OOD kip-CHOH-gə; (born 5 November 1984) is a Kenyan professional long-distance runner who competes in the marathon and formerly competed at the 5000 metre distance. He is the 2016 and 2020 Olympic marathon winner. In addition, he set the world record in the marathon with a time of 2:01:39 at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His run broke the previous world record by 1 minute and 18 seconds. He has been described as "the greatest marathoner of the modern era". Kipchoge won his first individual world championship title in 2003 by winning the junior race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and setting a world junior record over 5000 m on the track. At the age of eighteen, he became the senior 5000 m world champion at the 2003 World Championships in Athletics with a championships record, then followed with an Olympic bronze for Kenya in 2004 and a bronze at the 2006 IAAF World Indoor Championships. A five-time World Championship 5000 m finalist, Kipchoge took silver medals at the 2007 World Championships, 2008 Summer Olympics and 2010 Commonwealth Games. He switched to road running in 2012 and made the second-fastest half marathon debut ever, at 59:25. In his marathon debut, he won the 2013 Hamburg Marathon in a course record time. His first victory at a World Marathon Major came at the Chicago Marathon in 2014, and he went on to become series champion for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. He has won the London Marathon a record four times. His only losses in a marathon were a second-place finish behind Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich at the 2013 Berlin Marathon, where Kipsang broke the world record, and an eighth-place finish at the 2020 London Marathon.On 12 October 2019, Kipchoge ran the marathon distance at a special event in Vienna, Austria, achieving a time of 1:59:40. The run did not count as a new marathon record, as standard competition rules for pacing and fluids were not followed and it was not an open event.

Photo of Naftali Temu

4. Naftali Temu (1945 - 2003)

With an HPI of 58.48, Naftali Temu is the 4th most famous Kenyan Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Nabiba Naftali Temu (20 April 1945 – 10 March 2003) was a Kenyan long-distance runner. He became Kenya's first gold medalist when he won the 10,000 metres race at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

Photo of Wilson Kipketer

5. Wilson Kipketer (1972 - )

With an HPI of 58.02, Wilson Kipketer is the 5th most famous Kenyan Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 31 different languages.

Wilson Kosgei Kipketer (born 12 December 1972) is a Danish former middle distance runner. He is the second fastest of all time over 800 meters, setting the world record and breaking his own record two more times all in 1997. He dominated the 800 m distance for a decade, remaining undefeated for a three-year period and running 8 of the 17 currently all-time fastest times. He won gold medals in three successive editions of the IAAF World Championships in Athletics. Though unable to compete in the 1996 Olympics near the peak of his career, he earned silver in 2000 and bronze in 2004. Kipketer's 800 meters world record stood for almost 13 years. It was surpassed on 22 August 2010, when David Rudisha beat it by 0.02 seconds, running 1:41.09. Rudisha would eventually go on to further lower the 800m world record to the first and only sub one minute 41 second run. Kipketer still currently holds the indoor world record for the 800 metres. Kipketer represented both Sparta and KIF during his running career.

Photo of Amos Biwott

6. Amos Biwott (1947 - )

With an HPI of 56.78, Amos Biwott is the 6th most famous Kenyan Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 20 different languages.

Amos Biwott (born 8 September 1947) is a former Kenyan long-distance runner, winner of the 3000 m steeplechase at the 1968 Summer Olympics.Biwott was the first of a long line of Kenyan runners who starred in the 3000 m steeplechase since Biwott's surprising win at the 1968 Olympics; he pioneered the black Africa's dominance at the long-distance running. Biwott had only three steeplechase races before the Olympics, and his technique was unorthodox. Instead of placing one foot on the barrier and springing off, he cleared the obstacle in one leap, and in this way reduced the clearance time by half. He was the only runner to finish with completely dry feet in both the Olympic qualifying heat and the final, which he won by 0.6 seconds ahead of compatriot Benjamin Kogo.Biwott never won an international championship after the 1968 Olympics. He finished third at the 1970 British Commonwealth Games, was sixth at the 1972 Summer Olympics and completed his career with an eighth place at the 1974 British Commonwealth Games. He then worked for the Kenya Prisons Service until 1978, when he was prosecuted for theft. After that he worked as a watchman at a stadium.Biwott is married to Cherono Maiyo, one of the first Kenyan women to compete at the Summer Olympics. They married in 1973 and have five children.

Photo of Paul Tergat

7. Paul Tergat (1969 - )

With an HPI of 56.06, Paul Tergat is the 7th most famous Kenyan Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

Paul Kibii Tergat (born 17 June 1969) is a Kenyan former professional long distance runner. He became the first Kenyan man to set the world record in the marathon in 2003, with a time of 2:04:55, and is regarded as one of the most accomplished long-distance runners of all time. Runnerworld called him the "Most comprehensive runner of all time".Towards the end of his career he concentrated exclusively on the marathon. Tergat set several world records and won many titles on the track, in cross country, and on the road. He lives and trains in Eldoret.

Photo of Charles Asati

8. Charles Asati (1946 - )

With an HPI of 55.34, Charles Asati is the 8th most famous Kenyan Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Charles Asati (born March 3, 1946) is a former Kenyan athlete, winner of a gold medal in 4 × 400 m relay at the 1972 Summer Olympics.

Photo of Julius Sang

9. Julius Sang (1946 - 2004)

With an HPI of 53.45, Julius Sang is the 9th most famous Kenyan Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Julius Sang (September 19, 1948 – April 9, 2004) was a Kenyan runner. Along with teammates Robert Ouko, Charles Asati and Munyoro Nyamau he won the 4 x 400 relay race at the 1972 Summer Olympics for Kenya. He also took a bronze medal in the individual 400 meter race. He ran for North Carolina Central University, where he was part of their record-setting team at the Penn Relays. Sang was married to fellow runner Tecla Chemabwai Sang.

Photo of John Ngugi

10. John Ngugi (1962 - )

With an HPI of 52.94, John Ngugi is the 10th most famous Kenyan Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

John Ngugi Kamau (born 10 May 1962), is a former Kenyan long-distance runner, often called one of the greatest cross country runners of all time and winner of the 5000 metres at the 1988 Summer Olympics, in Seoul South Korea.

Pantheon has 93 people classified as athletes born between 1940 and 1996. Of these 93, 85 (91.40%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living athletes include Kipchoge Keino, Eliud Kipchoge, and Wilson Kipketer. The most famous deceased athletes include Ben Jipcho, Naftali Temu, and Julius Sang. As of October 2020, 23 new athletes have been added to Pantheon including Ben Jipcho, Julius Sang, and Billy Konchellah.

Living Athletes

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Deceased Athletes

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Newly Added Athletes (2020)

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Which Athletes were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 8 most globally memorable Athletes since 1700.