He fielded Kenya’s first junior squad.
Guardian correspondent Adharanand Finn has been covering Kenyan distance running for the past six months. Recently, he sat down with Brother Colm O’Connell. The Irish monk came to St. Patrick’s high school in Iten in 1976. In 1986, he became head teacher.
Finn describes O’Connell as “a living legend here in Kenya, although he’s reluctant to admit it.”
“Ah, the legend is bigger than the man,” O’Connell says, smiling. “I didn’t know anything when I started out, but I learnt from watching the athletes,” he admits.
O’Connell began coaching at St. Patrick’s in the late 1970s. After realizing much success, he was asked to coach the Kenyan team at the first world junior championships in 1986. He brought nine athletes and returned with nine medals. “It was then I thought, there’s something here,” O’Connell recalls.
A few years later, he started Kenya’s first running camp. There are now over 100 of these camps throughout the East African nation.
O’Connell no longer teaches at St. Patrick’s, but he still lives on the compound.
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