Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kip roots for ‘Olympic Sevens'

Kenyan athletics legend Kipchoge “Kip” Keino (centre) is flanked by Kenyan rugby officials Frank Sabwa and Micky Cardovillis in the VIP box before Kenya’s IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy match against Namibia at RFUEA ground, Ngong Road, on Tuesday. Photo/CHRIS OMOLLO

Kenyan athletics legend Kipchoge “Kip” Keino (centre) is flanked by Kenyan rugby officials Frank Sabwa and Micky Cardovillis in the VIP box before Kenya’s IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy match against Namibia at RFUEA ground, Ngong Road, on Tuesday. Photo/CHRIS OMOLLO 

By THE PUNTER

Kenyan double Olympic gold medallist Kipchoge Keino believes that sevens rugby would be a worthy addition to the 2016 Olympics programme. The middle-distance hero, who won gold in the 1968 Olympics 1,500m and again in the 3,000m steeplechase (1972), was at the Rugby Football Union of East Africa ground on Tuesday to watch the start of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy and, as a big rugby fan, to lend his support to hosts Kenya.

“With regard to rugby’s chances to become an Olympic sport, I believe that Rugby Sevens has a great potential. It is fast, it is entertaining, the crowds love it, and the matches are short. It could have a place in the Olympics,” said Keino. Keino, who is the chairman of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya, is also a member of the International Olympic Commitee, the decision-making body on Olympic sports.

A rugby player before he took up athletics, “Kip” – as he is affectionately known – is often seen at the RFUEA ground where the annual Safari Sevens is played. “I was a rugby player from 1960 to 1962 and I thoroughly enjoyed playing. Of course, l was a wing! We didn’t have too much coaching back in those days, and the games against the British military were extremely hard, but I liked to run with the ball,” he reminisced.

Keino attended Romania’s defeat of Papua New Guinea at Impala Club and later returned to support Kenya in their last-minute loss to Namibia on an entertaining opening day at the Junior Trophy. “I really enjoyed it. Our team did very well. It is a fantastic tournament and I am very proud to see Kenya hosting such a prestigious event,” he said.

Delighted

Richard Omwela, the KRFU chairman, was delighted to host the athletics legend. “He always comes to the Sevens and he thoroughly enjoys himself. During the Kenya match he kept telling me they needed more space on the field to run. Needless to say, he really enjoyed the tries they scored,” said Omwela. “Kip has been very helpful to Kenyan rugby.”