How did Kipchoge Keino influence baby names?

baby name, olympics, 1972, keino, kipchoge
Kipchoge “Kip” Keino, 1972

Kenyan middle- and long-distance runner Kipchoge Keino (pronounced kip-CHOH-gay KAY-noh) won a total of four medals at two different Summer Olympics: the 1968 Games in Mexico City and the 1972 Games in Munich.

Kip Keino’s most memorable race was his unlikely win in the 1,500 metre in ’68, but Kipchoge Keino‘s names — both first and last — didn’t enter the U.S. baby name data until ’72:

Year# Kipchoges# Keinos
1974
1973
1972
1971
1970
x
x
7 baby boys [debut]
x
x
9 baby boys
13 baby boys
19 baby boys [debut]
x
x

He won a gold and a silver in ’72, but a more important factor (in terms of baby names) may have been the naming climate in the U.S. in the early ’70s. A growing number of African-Americans were actively looking for African baby names at that time. (Check out this Names from Africa post for more.)

The name Kipchoge, a one-hit wonder in the data, means “born near the store for maize” in the Nandi language.

After retiring from competition, Kip Keino continued to work in sports. In the meanwhile, he and his wife Phyllis took in more than 100 orphaned children (and had seven of their own).

Each child has been given a name in English and Nandi, Kip’s native tongue. They include Claire/Cherop (“born when it’s raining”), Angela/Chepngetrik (“born when the cows go grazing”) and Susan/Chepchirchir (“born in a big hurry”).

For this and other humanitarian work, Keino has been honored in various ways, such as by winning the (very first) Olympic Laurel in 2016.

Sources:

P.S. Two other people who have inspired dual first-and-last name debuts are Cyd Charisse and Pier Angeli.

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