Athletics-Kenyan world-record slayer Rono dies aged 72

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan long-distance runner Henry Rono, who broke four world records in the span of 81 days in 1978, died on Thursday at the age of 72, Athletics Kenya said.

Between April and June of 1978, Rono, a student at Washington State University in the United States and relatively unknown on the international stage, set world records in the 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 metres and the 3,000 metre steeplechase.

He would never compete in the Olympics, however, due to Kenyan boycotts of the Games in 1976 and 1980, and his career fizzled out due to alcoholism.

"On behalf of Athletics Kenya Executive Committee and athletics fraternity, we wish to convey our sincere heartfelt condolences," Athletics Kenya said in a statement.

It did not provide a cause of death but said Rono had been in hospital in Kenya's capital Nairobi for the past 10 days.

Rono's death comes as Kenyan athletics is still reeling from the death of 24-year-old marathon world record holder, Kelvin Kiptum, in a traffic accident on Sunday.

Born Kipwambok Rono in 1952 in Kenya’s Rift Valley, a region famed for its production of elite runners, he was unable to walk until the age of six because of a bicycle accident.

He developed his talent as a runner while serving in the Kenyan army and was chosen for the 3000m steeplechase and 5000m at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

Kenya was among more than 20 African and Arab countries that boycotted the competition to protest the participation of New Zealand, which had sporting ties with apartheid South Africa.

Rono was known for his unorthodox running style and diet, which consisted heavily of fast food and alcohol.

After spending time in the United States, he returned to Kenya a few years ago to coach young athletes.

(Reporting by Aaron Ross and Humphrey Malalo, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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