World Athletics is deeply saddened to hear that John Velzian, a former coach and administrator who dedicated his life to the sport, has died at the age of 93.
Velzian, who was British but made his life in Kenya, had a huge impact during his 60-year career in athletics, particularly in Africa.
After becoming a physical education officer for Kenya in 1958, he remained following the country’s independence in 1963 to develop the nation’s athletics talent, particularly in long distance running. It was around that period that he discovered and began working with athletes such as the great Kip Keino, who would go on to win Olympic titles at the 1968 and 1972 Games.
“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 Kenya’s first national athletics team head coach and went on to become a long-time director of the global governing body’s Regional Development Centre in Kenya. He played a key role in the bid and organisation of the 2007 World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Mombasa and had been the race director for the Nairobi Marathon.
In 2011 he received the coaching lifetime achievement award from the world governing body in recognition of all he had done for the sport.
He remained active until he was well into his 90s and died in Nairobi just a few weeks shy of his 94th birthday.