A World Away

Kevin Thompson — a long-time assistant track coach at Cornell — was recently featured by Bill Rhoden in the New York Times and it is a fascinating piece that explains the groundwork to Cross World Africa, a international cross-cultural initiative of Kevin and his wife Michelle.

The mission — which began with a family trip in 2005 — includes providing educational opportunities in both the U.S. and Africa, identifying micro-enterprise opportunities and provide medical service options and education.

Thompson told Rhoden that the seeds of the venture began in 1968, when he and his old brother were watching the Olympics from Mexico City. While many young black Americans found inspiration in the gloved fists of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Thompson was mesmerized by the man who took down an American legend-to-be in the 1,500m run.

“Jim Ryun at the time was the world-record holder and the golden boy,” Thompson remember, but Kenyan Kip Keino won by a surprisingly wide margin. “It would be the equivalent of an African guy coming here and beating Michael Phelps in a couple races. He broke all of the stereotypes.”

Little did Thompson know that he’d wind up befriending Keino in that family visit and begin his initiative as the Kip Keino Foundation, later to expand to Cross World Africa. “It’s so surreal,” Thompson once said to a Staten Island reporter. “You idolize someone and now they become one of your best friends?”

That partnership has led to a number of Kenyan excursions by those affiliated with the Big Red track & field program, but no longer are the Heps athletes just from Cornell. Princeton rising senior Russell Dinkins joined the 2012 summer trip. That’s him above in a photo captured by Derek Alvez. Thompson is the man in red behind the young sprinter.

Take a closer look at Cross World Africa and help it grow if you are able.

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