In Summary
  • In November 1960, Bartonjo went to Cambridge University and later in Oxford University where he studied Public Administration.
  • On his return, he was appointed as a District Assistant and posted to Murang’a and later Lodwar in Turkana where he rose to become the District Commissioner in Kisumu and thereafter to Nairobi where he worked for a number of years.

On Monday, the first Kenyan to ever win an international athletics medal, Mzee Bartonjo Rotich, breathed his last.

Bartonjo, who is famous for bagging a bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales, in 1958, died peacefully in his sleep at his Ainabkoi home in Baringo North at the age of 82.

The Cardiff competitions in which he won was Kenya’s third international athletics competition having participated in Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada, in 1954, and the Olympics in Melbourne Australia in 1956, all without any medals. Bartonjo broke that drought.

He was born in 1937 in Kabartonjo in Baringo North, the first eight children of Kamuren Rotich.

He used the money he earned as a herdsman to pay school fees and ran six miles every morning to be in school by 7am, running back to herd the goats after.

In 1945, he joined the Government African School Kabarnet and it was here that he was taught by former President Daniel arap Moi.

In 1949, he attended the Government African School Kapsabet (now Kapsabet High School) where his athletics talent was discovered.

He soon became a star athlete in the school upsetting the established runners and fellow schoolmates, Paul and Sila Boit, in the 440 and 880 yards (quarter and half mile).

On June 5, 1954, Bartonjo, then 17, took part in the Rift Valley Provincial Championships winning in the 440 and 880 yards, qualifying for the National Championships.

He then took part in the Inter-Territorial games held on June 19 1954 in Nairobi and it was here that the Colony Sports Officer Archie Evans, discovered him.

Evans was also the national athletics coach and used the Inter-Territorial games (which brought in Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika and Zanzibar), to select the team to represent Kenya in the British Empire Games in Vancouver, Canada. Bartonjo made the cut for the team but at 17 he was considered a minor.

On August 27, 1955, Bartonjo set the national record in the 4x440y known as the mile relay clocking a time of 3:20.8 together with Sila Boit his former rival now turned teammate.

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