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Tuesday 24 April 2018

Irish 'godfather of Kenyan running' shares the glory

Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

BROTHER Colm O'Connell happily shared his own golden moment with Olympic champion David Rudisha as the Irish missionary was awarded a special accolade on home turf.

Dubbed "the godfather of Kenyan running'' for coaching some of the world's greatest athletes, Br O'Connell basked in the limelight with his most famous protege as he received an honorary doctorate from Dublin City University.

Originally from Doneraile, Co Cork, he has trained five Olympic gold medallists and 25 world champions over more than three decades.

He is widely regarded as one of the most successful trainers ever of endurance runners.

Br O'Connell has spent the past 36 years in Kenya's Rift Valley coaching athletes from all parts of the country.

His most recent success was Mr Rudisha, winner of the 800m gold medal in the London Olympics, and current world record holder.

Br Colm said: "For somebody to be selected from a remote little village in the highlands of western Kenya and to be recognised in such a manner is beyond my wildest dreams and imaginings.

"My approach for coaching is all about the person; it's about personal development and forming positive attitudes. It's about having character, personality, confidence and style as an athlete."

Br O'Connell was the first person to introduce the training camp concept to Kenya and has established over 100 such camps which allow elite athletes develop their talent in a carefully controlled environment.

He travelled to Kenya to work as a geography teacher in a boarding school, and despite having no coaching background, began helping aspiring runners in a country famous for producing top-class athletes.

The 63-year-old has developed a particularly keen eye for discovering young talent and first came across Rudisha as a promising 14-year-old.

He watched the Olympic success of his protege in a small flickering television deep in the heart of the Rift Valley.

Br O'Connell follows in the footsteps of people such as Seamus Heaney and Mary Robinson who have received similar awards.

Irish Independent

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