Johannesburg - World Athletics on Thursday paid tribute to former Kenyan Athletics administrator John Velzian who died at the age of 93.
Velzian died on Thursday morning while undergoing treatment at MP Shah Hospital in Nairobi.
African Athletics Development Centre secretary Elizabeth Anono told Kenyan publication Daily Nation: “In our lives, there have been few people as special as John Velzian. He was someone that we felt deeply connected to, and even though he is gone, we feel his presence throughout our region,” said Anono.
Though Velzian was British, he made a huge impact during a 60-year career most notably in Africa.
Velzian became a physical education officer in Kenya in 1958, and stayed in the country after it gained independence in 1963. His mission was to develop the nation’s athletics talent, with a focus on long distance running. He was responsible for developing athletes like the legendary Kip Keino, who went on to win Olympic gold in 1968 and 1972.
"I first met him in 1962 when he was coaching in Nyeri,” Keino told AFP. “He was very thorough in his coaching under the old British system and helped me to become the top athlete in the world.”
Velzian was also Kenya’s first official national athletics team coach, and he would also become the director of the global governing body’s Regional Development Centre in Kenya.
He helped Kenya Athletics bid and organise the 2007 World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Mombasa. He was also the race director of the Nairobi Marathon.
In 2011, Velzian received a lifetime achievement award for coaching from World Athletics in recognition of his contribution to the sport.