Legendary Safari Rally driver Jack Simonian who also played for Kenya men’s hockey team in three editions of the Olympic Games in the 1960s is dead.
Simonian, who played for Kenya’s hockey team as goalkeeper at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico where he was named goalkeeper of the tournament, passed away on Monday in Australia.
Simonian, who resided in Kenya for decades before migrating to England, passed away peacefully in his sleep. He was 84.
The veteran Safari Rally driver made a big impact in rallying and hockey at the height of his sporting career while residing in Kenya.
Former rally driver, Steve Anthony, who was a close friend with Simonian, was among the first to send his condolences to the Simonian family.
“Jack was one of Kenya's most popular and talented Motor Sportsmen in Kenya. His talent in the sport was indeed at a higher level. The multi-talented Simonian represented Kenya as hockey goalkeeper in the Olympic Games,” said Anthony.
Anthony added: “Jack was very kind and generous friend. He was a close family friend to my father as colleagues in racing.”
Simonian’s death comes just days after that of another Safari Rally legend, Bharat Bhardwaj, who passed on close to two weeks ago.
Bhardwaj played a major role in the development of the sport in Kenya after retiring from active competition. He navigated legendary rally driver Joginder Singh to two Safari Rally finishes, recording second-placed finish in 1969 and winding up third in the 1966 edition of the competition, driving a Volvo car on both occasions.
Bhardwaj also emerged Motorsportsman of the Year in 1969 and was Kenya Hillclimb champion for six years in a row.
Not only was Simonian the East African Rally champion in cars and on bikes, but he also played hockey for Sikh Union Hockey Club in Nairobi.
He represented Kenya as the national team goalkeeper at the 1960 Olympic Games held in Rome, at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico where he emerged goalkeeper of the tournament.
Jack was well known figure in the Sikh circle in Nairobi where he played as a hockey goalkeeper for Sikh Union.
He was a motorsports legend, having competed in many editions of the Safari Rally. He was also top class motorcycle champion, having registered a number of records at Nakuru and Embakasi racing circuits.