Athletics in Kenya was governed by an organization known as Kenya Amateur Athletics Association (KAAA) from 1951 until 2002 when the organization changed the name to Athletics Kenya (AK), the current governing body of athletics (Track & Field and Running Events) in Kenya.
Arthur (Archie) Evans is credited in the formation of the association during his tenure as the Colonial Sports Officer in Kenya where he became the first secretary of the association, Sir Derek Erskine became the associations’ first chairman.
The association was formed as a requirement in any country wishing to send athletes to international competitions, especially the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, today known as simply Commonwealth Games. Following the formation of KAAA, Kenya was represented for the first time in the 5th edition of British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada in 1954 and subsequent championships.
Sir Derek Erskine formed (KAAA) Kenya Amateur Athletics Association and became the first KAAA President for 16 years. Sir Derek was the pillar of KAAA track and field by producing the world class athletes. Sir Derek worked so closely with Archie Evans who was the first Kenyan sports officer and was by then the Principal of Jeans School Kabete (Now KIA) Kenya Institute of Administration. Archie Evans was the man behind the formation of KAAA before Sir Derek took over the Administration of the Association. It is from this time track and field activities were intensified from local village sports activities to serious competition around the Provinces.
In 1951, Archie Evans made sure that KAAA adopted the Amateur Athletics Association rules and regulations, later affiliating KAAA to IAAF “International Amateur Athletic Federation.”
In 1952 KAAA was ready to organize a match between Uganda Protectorate and Tanganyika Territory, the match between the three states was known as the East African Territorial Athletics Championships; which were later to be staged annually. These championships became the cornerstone of our Athletics program ever since. Other nations like Somalia, Malawi, Ethiopia, and Zambia joined the “East African Amateur Athletic Board”.
Kenya had a very successful performance from these Championships. The Kenyan Men performed fairly well compared to women making Kenya dominate the Championships since 1953 to date. The Kenyan women came to the limelight in 1967 onwards.
1952 was the first time ever for Kenya under the British rule to send a team to compete outside East Africa.
Since then Kenya has participated in world major events including Olympics, All African Games, World X Country, Golden League and many others.
The first Kenyan to win a gold medal was Naftali Temu in 1972 in Berlin Germany, however before this Kenya had participated in the commonwealth games in 1954. Today Kenya is best in the world both male and female with athletes like Paul Tergat, Moses Kiptanui, Benjamin Limo, Janet Jepkosgei, Tecla Lorupe, Catherine Ndereba among others. Kenya has also produced great runners in the Paralympics, people like Henry Wanyoike and others.
1964 Kenya had become a Republic and it is this year that the First African President of KAAA, Mr. Musembi Mbathi took over the Association leadership (Chairman). Mr. William Yeda became the first African Sports Officer of the Republic of Kenya, taking over from Archie Evans. In this year, Kenya achieved its first ever medal in the Olympic Games; Wilson Kiprugut Chumo won the highly awaited Olympics medal– A Bronze in 800m.
Mr. Musembi ran the association as chairman for Four years. In 1968 Bartonjo Rotich took over as chairman. Bartonjo was one of the two 100m athletes who represented Kenya in the 1958 Empire Games in Cardiff. During his first year (1968), Kenya won 9 medals – 3 gold, 4 silver and 2 bronze medals in the 1968 Olympic Games held in Mexico City.
Bartonjo was chairman from 1968 to 1972 when Mr. Charles Mukora took over as chairman for two years from 1972 to 1974. In 1974 Hon. Prof. Sam Ongeri took over as chairman for the next 10 years, he was succeeded by Mr Paul Boit in the year 1984.Mr. Paul was thereafter succeeded by Mr Isaiah Kiplagat in the year 1992 after 8 years in office. It is during Mr. Isaiah’s tenure that KAAA was rebranded to be Athletics Kenya in the year 2002; it was also during his tenure that he moved from being the chairman to the president of Athletics Kenya.
Mr. Isaiah was president of Athletics Kenya for 23 years and therefore being the longest serving chairman of the federation. He was succeeded by the current president Lt. Gen (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei in 2015.