This is my own personal tribute to John Velzian, that I posted on my Facebook and Instagram account that day, after I was called first thing that morning by John's son Guy, to pass on the news, which I then passed on to World Athletics.
John was a legend in the sport, and attended Carnegie with my father Ron Pickering, who later became national coach in Great Britain, and later went on to become a commentator for BBC TV in the 70s and 80s. John was often a thorn in the side of Kenyan Government and the administrators at the top, and struggled with this througout his 60+ years in Kenya, but always fought for the athletes and the sport.
It is with great sadness that we have to announce the passing of one of the true giants of World and particularly African Athletics: John Velzian just a few weeks shy of his 94th birthday. He can perhaps be seen as the father of Kenyan Athletics, such was his impact on that country.
John was a classmate of Ron Pickering at Carnegie College of Physical Education in Leeds in the mid 1950s, who chose to take a role as Physical Education Officer for Kenya in 1958, when Kenya was still under colonial rule of the British.
John chose to stay on in Kenya following independence in 1963 and develop the incredible raw talent that the country had to offer in the sport of Athletics and particularly long distance running. It was at this time that he discovered and developed talent such as the great Kip Keino that really came to world attention at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games.
As the first National Coach to Kenya, he also developed coach education across Africa and was for many years the Director of the IAAF Regional Development Centre in Nairobi, and was recognised by the International Governing Body with a Coaching Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 for all that he had done for Athletics.
He remained active until well into his 90s and was always available for advice on training and development to anyone that asked.
My thoughts are with son Guy and daughter Kim and their families, who were robbed by the chance to spend time with him in recent years due to the Global Pandemic, but also on the many thousands of people on whom his efforts continue to have a positive impact.
Thanks a lot for your contribution, Shaun.