Kenya’s sprint hero Antao dies in London - Daily Nation

Kenya’s sprint hero Antao dies in London

Thursday September 8 2011

By RICHARD MWANGI [email protected]

Seraphino Antao, the first Kenyan to win a medal for Kenya at the Commonwealth Games, has died. He was living in London where he emigrated to in 1964.

Antao won double gold - 100 and 200 yards - at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia. To many athletics fans, his name is engraved in nostalgic memory.

Many Kenyans born after independence will be shocked to hear that one of their own once ruled the sprint races globally.

Antao, born of Goan parents, and brought up at Makadara Estate, Mombasa, was the supreme sprinter at the 1962 Commonwealth.

He remains the only Kenyan to have ever won gold in the short sprints at any world event.

He was nicknamed the gazelle because of his speed.

He also raced in the 4 by 440m relay at the Perth Games and anchored Kenya to a fifth place finish.

In that relay team were Wilson Kiprugut, Kimaru Songok and Peter Francis.

Just before independence, he won the prestigious Helms Athletics Foundation, which was awarded to six greatest athletes of the six continents by the American Foundation.

He received the award from the Colonial Governor, Malcolm McDonald, at Government House, now State House.

He also won a double at the 1962 Czechoslovakia Championships in Prague and virtually dominated the sprints in what was then called World Class meets, in Zurich, Berlin and London, the equivalent of present day’s Diamond League meets.

In his youth Antao was a very athletic person and participated in all sporting activities at his Goan High School (now St. Valentine’s School) but was more inclined towards football.

Taking part in Coast competitions, he realised that he was rather decent in sprinting but having nobody to race against, could not quite judge his abilities to their limits.

His first break came in 1956 when he was eligible to participate in a national competition held in Nairobi.

Here his true colours came to light and Antao decided to pursue sprint events with gusto.

He broke the Kenya National records for 100 and 220 yards in 1957. It was clear he was he was destined for greater things.

Finally selected for the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, his participation was more of a learning experience than anything else, as his performance there was nothing much to write home about.

By then, Seraphino was holding a job as a supervisor with the Landing and Shipping Company who were agents for the East African Railways.

Training was regularly held at the East African Railways Sports Club and the Mombasa Municipal Stadium.

Antao holds the memento given to him by the Nairobi Institute honouring his achievements.

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