Kenya’s rich medal harvest at the Olympics - Daily Nation

Kenya’s rich medal harvest at the Olympics

Friday July 6 2012

PHOTO | DANIEL NAMALE | XINHUA Vivian Cheruiyot (R) and Joyce Chepkirui (L) lead the pack of the women 10000m race during Kenya’s London Olympic Games trials at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 15, 2012. Vivian Cheruiyot, Joyce Chepkirui and Sally Kipyego were selected to represent Kenya in the upcoming London Olympic Games starting on July 27, 2012.

PHOTO | DANIEL NAMALE | XINHUA Vivian Cheruiyot (R) and Joyce Chepkirui (L) lead the pack of the women 10000m race during Kenya’s London Olympic Games trials at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 15, 2012. Vivian Cheruiyot, Joyce Chepkirui and Sally Kipyego were selected to represent Kenya in the upcoming London Olympic Games starting on July 27, 2012. 

By John Kwoba


Never before in the history of the Olympic Games has Kenya’s performance been so good. As the curtain came down on the Beijing Games, Kenyan athletes had flipped through the history books cementing their names in folklore as the best country in Africa.

International sporting events are about nothing if not national pride. Ranked 15th overall out of the 204 countries that had paraded their best sporting talent, the local athletes returned home with a heavy bag of silverware. They had clinched a total of five gold, five silver and four bronze medals.

With such a great performance, two histories were made. First, Africa sensation Pamela Jelimo, at just 18, became the first ever Kenya woman to claim gold in the Olympics while Samuel Wanjiru, 21, filled the missing gap in Kenya’s stronghold - the men's marathon - to triumph after two previous attempts by Eric Wainaina and Dauglas Wakiihuri yielded silver medals. The two, Jelimo and the late Wanjiru, have cemented their names in Olympic folklore as true legends.

But it was Wilson Kiprugut who won Kenya’s first ever Olympic medal when he took bronze in the 800m during the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Ever since, Kenya has maintained a steady supply of talent in successive competitions. Kiprugut was once again on the podium four years later in Mexico City, where he scooped silver in 1:44.5.

It was also in Mexico City, four years after the first medal had been won, that Kenyan legend Kipchoge Keino struck gold in the 1,500m, clocking 3:34.9. He added silver in the 5,000m (14:05.2) behind Naftali Temu, who took gold in 14:06.4. Temu went on to claim a double in the 10,000m race in 29:27.4.

At the same event, Kenya won its first ever medal in boxing when featherweight Philip Waruinge scooped bronze.

The history of Kenya’s dominance in the 3,000m steeplechase was born in Mexico, and 40 years down the line, local athletes have kept their stranglehold on the race, save for 1976 and 1980, when Kenya boycotted the Olympics.

Amos Biwott won Kenya’s first steeplechase gold in Mexico ‘68 followed by Benjamin Kogo, who took silver. Kenya also won a rare medal in the men’s 4x400m relay, silver, from the quartet of Charles Asati, Naftali Bon, Hezekiah Nyamau and Daniel Rudisha.

In Berlin in 1972, with America dropping the baton, Kenya scooped the gold in the 4x400m relay race with Asati, Nyamau, Robert Ouko and Julius Sang. The other gold was won by Kipchoge Keino in the steeplechase, after taking silver in the 1,500m. Kipchoge (1,500m) and Ben Jipcho (3,000m steeplechase) secured silver medals while Julius Sang (400m) and Mike Boit (800m) finished third.

Waruinge improved on his previous performance as he clinched silver in the featherweight category. Both Samuel Mbugua (lightweight) and Dick ‘Tiger’ Murungu (welterweight) got a bronze each.

In Los Angeles in 1984, Kenya only won three medals, gold in the 3,000m steeplechase through Julius Korir and a bronze from Mike Musyoki in the 10,000m while flyweight Ibrahim Bilali took the silver in boxing

In Seoul four years later, Kenya went all out and amassed five gold, two silver and three bronze medals. The gold medals came through Paul Ereng (800m), Peter Rono (1,500m), John Ngugi (5,000m), Julius Kariuki (3,000m steeplechase) and Robert Wangila (welterweight) in boxing.

Peter Koech (3,000m Steeplechase) and marathoner Douglas Wakiihuri won silver with Kipkemboi Kimeli settling for bronze in the 10,000m. Middleweight Chris Sande won bronze, the last that Kenya has won in boxing. The amateur team, “Hit Squad”, has since lost its sting.

Four years later in Barcelona, it was only William Tanui (800m) and Matthew Birir (3,000m steeplechase) who won gold.  Richard Chelimo (10000m), Paul Bitok (5,000m), Nixon Kiprotich (800m) and Patrick Sang (3,000m Steeplechase) took silver while Samson Kitur (400m) and William Mutwol (3,000m steeplechase) secured a bronze each.

In Atlanta in 1996, only Joseph Keter won gold in steeplechase with Paul Tergat (10,000m), Paul Bitok (5,000), Pauline Konga (5,000m) and Moses Kiptanui (3,000m Steeplechase) got silver. Fred Onyancha (800m), Stephen Kipkorir (1,500m), Erick Wainaina (marathon) clinched bronze medals.

However, in Sydney in 2000, only Noah Ngeny (1,500m) and Reuben Kosgei (3,000m steeplechase) triumphed to take gold. But the silver went to Paul Tergat (10,000m), Erick Wainaina (marathon) and Wilson Boit Kipketer (3,000m steeplechase). Joyce Chepchumba (marathon) and Bernard Lagat (1,500m) got bronze.

In Athens eight years ago, Ezekiel Kemboi was the only gold medallist. Bernard Lagat, now an American citizen (1,500m), Brimin Kiprop (3,000m steeplechase) and Isabella Ochichi (5,000m) were silver medallists while Eliud Kipchoge (5,000m) and Paul Kipsiele Koech took bronze.

In Beijing four years ago, Kenya went a gear up to showcase its best talent and was rewarded with a position 15, the best in Africa, out of the 204 countries that paraded their athletes at the Bird’s Nest Stadium. That was cemented with Wanjiru's final run that saw Kenyan national anthem being played as the final event before the curtains came down. In total, Kenya had won 14 medals — six gold, four silver and four bronze.

Despite the rich history in sports, only two disciplines — athletics and boxing — have earned Kenya Olympics medals. However, it is in track competitions that the country has excelled.

After the conclusion of the Beijing Olympics, Kenya’s complete medals tally over the years stands at 17 gold, 24 silver and 20 bronze. From athletics, the country’s national anthem has been played 16 times and only once for boxing in Seoul in 1988.

The closest Kenyan runners came to winning marathon gold was in Seoul in 1988 and 2000 in Sydney, when Douglas Wakiihuri and Eric Wainaina claimed silver respectively. No Kenyan woman had ever won a gold medal before the Beijing Olympics.

It took Kenya 52 years to break the jinx.

An eighteen-year old 800m sensation Pamela Jelimo and Nancy Jabot Lagat (1,500m) won gold in Beijing. To cap it all, Samuel Wanjiru won Kenya’s first ever marathon gold at the close of the games. Before Beijing, Kenya’s greatest medal haul was in Seoul, where welterweight Robert Wangila won Kenya’s first non-athletics gold medal.

World 3,000m steeplechase champion Brimin Kaput picked Kenya’s first gold. Later, a then 18-year-old Jelimo wrote new history for the country as she won the women’s 800m fold in 1:54.87 a new junior world record ahead of then World champion Janet Jepkosgei, who took silver.

Team captain Wilfred Bungei retired from international competition by winning gold in 800m with world champion Alfred Kirwa Yego taking bronze.

Nancy Jebet Langat surprised many when she claimed gold in the women’s 1,500m.  But the last honour went to Samuel Wanjiru as he pulled away from the rest of the leading pack with 10km to go to win the first ever gold in marathon. Wanjiru set a new Olympic record time of 2:06:32.

Kenya finished top in Africa with 14 medals (five gold, five silver and four bronze) ahead of Ethiopia (four gold, one silver two bronze), Zimbabwe (one gold three silver), Cameroon and Tunisia, each with one gold medal.

Overall ranking saw Kenya finishing in position 15. Hosts China had 98 medals (50 gold, 20 silver, 28 bronze). United States were second with 108 medals (gold 35, silver 37, bronze 36) while Russia had 72 medals (gold 23, silver 21 and bronze 28).

Past winners –

  • 1964    800m Men                  Wilson Kiprugut          1:45.9              BRONZE

  • 1968    800m Men                  Wilson Kiprugut          1:44.5              SILVER

  • 1968    1500m Men                Kipchoge Keino           3:34.9              GOLD

  • 1968    5000m Men                Kipchoge Keino           14:05.2            SILVER

  • 1968    5000m Men                Naftali Temu               14:06.4            BRONZE

  • 1968    10000m Men              Naftali Temu               29:27.4            GOLD

  • 1968    3000m SC Men           Amos Biwott                8:51.0              GOLD

  • 1968    3000m SC Men           Benjamin Kogo            8:51.6              SILVER

  • 1968    4x400m Relay Men     Charles Asati               2:59.6              SILVER

  • 1968    4x400m Relay Men     Naftali Bon                  2:59.6              SILVER

  • 1968    4x400m Relay Men     Hezekiah Nyamau       2:59.6              SILVER

  • 1968    4x400m Relay Men     Daniel Rudisha            2:59.6              SILVER

  • 1972    400m Men                  Julius Sang                   44.92               BRONZE

  • 1972    800m Men                  Mike Boit                    1:46.0              BRONZE

  • 1972    1500m Men                Kipchoge Keino           3:36.8              SILVER

  • 1972    3000m SC Men           Kipchoge Keino           8:23.6              GOLD

  • 1972    3000m SC Men           Ben Jipcho                   8:24.6              SILVER

  • 1972    4x400m Relay Men     Charles Asati               2:59.8              GOLD

  • 1972    4x400m Relay Men     Hezekiah Nyamau       2:59.8              GOLD

  • 1972    4x400m Relay Men     Robert Ouko                2:59.8              GOLD

  • 1972    4x400m Relay Men     Julius Sang                   2:59.8              GOLD

  • 1984    10000m Men              Mike Musyoki             28:06.46          BRONZE

  • 1984    3000m SC Men           Julius Korir                  8:11.80            GOLD

  • 1988    800m Men                  Paul Ereng                   1:43.45            GOLD

  • 1988    1500m Men                Peter Rono                  3:35.96            GOLD

  • 1988    5000m Men                John Ngugi                  13:11.70          GOLD

  • 1988    10000m Men              Kipkemboi Kimeli        27:25.16          BRONZE

  • 1988    Marathon Men           Douglas Wakiihuri      2:10:47            SILVER

  • 1988    3000m SC Men           Julius Kariuki               8:05.51            GOLD

  • 1988    3000m SC Men           Peter Koech                 8:06.79            SILVER

  • 1992    400m Men                  Samson Kitur               44.24               BRONZE

  • 1992    800m Men                  William Tanui 1:43.66            GOLD

  • 1992    800m Men                  Nixon Kiprotich           1:43.70            SILVER

  • 1992    5000m Men                Paul Bitok                    13:12.71          SILVER

  • 1992    10000m Men              Richard Chelimo         27:47.72          SILVER

  • 1992    3000m SC Men           Matthew Birir 8:08.84            GOLD

  • 1992    3000m SC Men           Patrick Sang                8:09.55            SILVER

  • 1992    3000m SC Men           William Mutwol          8:10.74            BRONZE

  • 1996    800m Men                  Fred Onyancha            1:42.79            BRONZE

  • 1996    1500m Men                Stephen Kipkorir         3:36.72            BRONZE

  • 1996    5000m Men                Paul Bitok                    13:08.16          SILVER

  • 1996    10000m Men              Paul Tergat                 27:08.17          SILVER

  • 1996    Marathon Men           Erick Wainaina            2:12:44            BRONZE

  • 1996    3000m SC Men           Joseph Keter                8:07.12            GOLD

  • 1996    3000m SC Men           Moses Kiptanui           8:08.33            SILVER

  • 1996    5000m Women           Pauline Konga 15:03.49          SILVER

  • 2000    1500m Men                Noah Ngeny                3:32.07            GOLD

  • 2000    1500m Men                Bernard Lagat 3:32.44            BRONZE

  • 2000    10000m Men              Paul Tergat                 27:18.9            SILVER

  • 2000    Marathon Men           Erick Wainaina            2:10:31            SILVER

  • 2000    3000m SC Men           Reuben Kosgei            8:21.43            GOLD

  • 2000    3000m SC Men           Wilson Boit Kipketer   8:21.77            SILVER

  • 2000    Marathon Women      Joyce Chepchumba     2:24:45            BRONZE

  • 2004    1500m Men                Bernard Lagat 3:34.30            SILVER

  • 2004    5000m Men                Eliud Kipchoge            13:15.10          BRONZE

  • 2004    3000m SC Men           Ezekiel Kemboi            8:05.81            GOLD

  • 2004    3000m SC Men           Brimin Kiprop  8:06.11            SILVER

  • 2004    3000m SC Men           Paul Kipsiele Koech     8:06.64            BRONZE

  • 2004    Marathon Women      Catherine Ndereba     2:26:32            SILVER

  • 2004    5000m Women           Isabella Ochichi          14:48.19          SILVER

  • 2008    800m Women Pamela Jelimo            1:54.87            GOLD

  • 2008    800m  Women            Wilfred Bungei            1:44.65            GOLD

  • 2008    1,500m Women          Nancy Jebet                 4:00.23            GOLD

  • 2008    3,000m SC                   Brimin Kipruto            8:10.34            GOLD

  • 2008    marathon Men            Samuel Wanjiru          2:06:32            GOLD

  • 2008    800m Women Janeth Jepkosgei         1:56.07            SILVER

  • 2008    1,500m Men               Asbel Kiprop                3:33.11            SILVER

  • 2008    3,000mSC Women      Eunice Jepkorir           9:07.41            SILVER

  • 2008    5,000m Men               Eliud Kipchoge            13:02.80          SILVER

  • 2008    marathon Women      Catherine Ndereba     2:27:06            SILVER

  • 2008    800m   Men                 Alfred Kirwa                1:44.82            BRONZE

  • 2008    3,000m SC Men          Richard Mateelong     8:11.01            BRONZE

  • 2008    5,000mMen                Edwin Soi                     13:06.22          BRONZE

  • 2008    10,000m                      Micah Kogo                 27:04.11          BRONZE


  • 1968    Featherweight Philip Waruinge                                  BRONZE

  • 1972    Featherweight Philip Waruinge                                  SILVER

  • 1972    Lightweight               Samuel Mbugua                                  BRONZE

  • 1972    Welterweight             Dick Tiger Murungu                            BRONZE

  • 1984    Flyweight                  Ibrahim Bilali                                      BRONZE

  • 1988    Welterweight             Robert Wangila                                   GOLD

  • 1988    Middleweight             Chris Sande                                         BRONZE