The 5,000m race in athletics has a rich history that Kenyans rightfully dominate.
From legendries Kipchoge Keino, Naftali Temu, Paul Ngugi, Daniel Komen and Eliud Kipchoge to Vivian “Pocket" Cheruiyot, Hellen Obiri, Pauline Konga and Isabella Ochichi, Kenya has cemented its niche in the track race.
The world has seen Africa end the European dominance over the years at the Olympics and World Championships with a horde of Ethiopian legendary athletes Kenenisa Bekele, Haile Gebrselassie, Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Didada staking acclaim.
In fact, the story on Ngugi and Cheruiyot would resonate so well if a movie script is to be written about the race, that is the second longest event on track after 10,000m.
That they are the first Kenyans to win the Olympic 5,000m title goes without saying. They remain the only gold medallists from the Olympics in the event.
Ngugi won in 1988 Seoul, while the women had to wait until the 2016 Rio Olympics to toss to Cheruiyot’s great triumph.
The 5,000m event made its debut at the Olympics during the 1912 Stockholm Games with the women’s claiming their share starting at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games.
Prior to 1996, women had competed in an Olympic 3,000m race since 1984.
The race covers 12.5 laps of a standard track where one lap covers 400m.
Bekele holds the World 5,000m record time of 12 minutes and 37.35 seconds set in Hengelo on May 31, 2004, while Dibaba holds the women’s 10 year-old record of 14:11.15 set on June 6, 2008.
Bekele shattered compatriot Haile Gebrselassie’s previous record of time of 12:39.36 from Helsinki on June 13, 1998.
Kenya’s Daniel Komen had only broken the record 10 months earlier with a time of 12:39.74 from Brussels on August 22, 1997, before Gebrselassie lowered it.
The times by Bekele, Gebrselassie and Komen remain the fastest in the history of the race. Other Kenyans who have held the 5,000m World Record are Henry Rono and Moses Kiptanui.
OBIRI HOLDS KENYAN RECORD
Rono broke the record twice in 1978 (13:08.4) and 1981 (13:06.20), while Kiptanui held it in 1995 (12:55.30).
Defar broke the women’s world record twice in 2006 (14:24.53) and 2007 (14:16.63)., before Dibaba’s feat of 14:11.15 in 2008.
Hellen Obiri holds the Kenyan record of 14:18.37 set on June 8, 2017 in Rome, Italy having broken compatriot Vivian Cheruiyot’s record of 14:20.87 attained on July 29, 2011 in Stockholm, Sweden.
Finn Hannes Kolehmainen had the great honour of winning the men’s 5,000m gold at the inaugural 1912 Games in a World Record time of 14:36.6.
However, it was not until the 1964 Tokyo Olympics when Kenya made its debut in the race with Keino finishing fifth in 13:50.4, as Emeiran Bob Schul won 13:48.8.
And just like Kenya with Ngugi’s 1988 win, it has been USA’s only victory in the race at the Olympics.
Africa not only got to taste its maiden victory, but also medals at the Olympics during the 1968 Mexico City Summer Games.
It's legendary Tunisian athlete Mohammed Gammoudi (14:05.0), who edged out Keino (14:05.2) and Temu (14:06.4) for the gold medal.
Finn Lasse Virén made history as the first man to ever retain the Olympic 5,000m title when he won at 1972 Munich Games and 1976 Montreal, a feat that Somali-born Mo Farah of Britain equalled with victory in 2012 London and 2016 Rio.
Africa tasted its second victory when Ethiopian Miruts Yifter triumphed at the 1980 Moscow Games.
That saw Africans dominate before Farah’s reign with only Dieter Baumann of Germany halting the charge at 1992 Barcelona, where Kenya’s Paul Bitok won silver.
Bitok also settled for silver losing the battle to Vénuste Niyongabo of Burundi at 1996 Atlanta.
Some of those who have won since then are Million Wolde (Ethiopian) 2000 Sydney, Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) 2004 Athens and Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) 2008 Beijing, before Farah cracked the code.
Kipchoge got bronze when El Guerrouj claimed victory with Bekele going for silver, before scaling to silver when Bekele triumphed in Beijing, where Kenya’s Edwin Soi took bronze.
Thomas Longosiwa would get a bronze for Kenya in London.
Kenya had the worst show at the Olympics when they failed to qualify an athlete for the first time to the final at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Kenyan-born Paul Chelimo won silver for USA as Farah dominated.
Chinese Wang Junxia claimed the women’s gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in 14:59.88, where Konga made history at the first Kenya woman to win an Olympic medal when she settled for silver in 15:03.49.
Italian Roberta Brunet went for bronze in 15:07.52 as another Kenyan Rose Cheruiyot finished eighth in a race, where Briton Paula Radcliffe was place fifth.
Africa have dominated at the Olympics since Romanian Gabriela Szabo’s victory at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Defar won at the 2004 Athens and 2012 London Olympics, while Dibaba at 2008 Beijing, with Cheruiyot winning at 2016 Rio as Obiri claimed silver.
Cheruiyot, who had lost to Defar to settle for silver in 2012 London, triumphed in Rio with an Olympic Record time of 14:26.17, as Obiri ran a personal best of 14:29.77.
Finland is the most successful country in the men’s race at the Olympics with six titles followed by Ethiopia with three. Ethiopian is the most successful in women, having three titles out of the six editions.
The race has been part of the World Championships since inception in 1983 Helsinki, Finland.
NINETEEN-YEAR OLD KIPCHOGE
While Kenyan men have had a dry spell at the Olympics winning only one title, they have dominated at the World Championships, having won in seven out of the 16 editions.
Ethiopia have had the lion’s share in the women’s race at the Worlds, winning in five events and are followed by Kenya with three victories and Romania two.
Interestingly, Kenya is yet to win the men’s title since Benjamin Limo’s exploits at the 2005 Helsinki event, while its only until 2009 Berlin that Kenya had its first title in Vivian Cheruiyot, who went on to defend the title in 2011 Daegu.
Yobes Ondieki was the first Kenyan man to win the World 5,000m title in 1991 Tokyo, but its Ismael Kirui, who made history as the first man to defend his title when he won at 1993 Stuttgart and 1995 Gothenburg.
Kenya would win it for the fourth time in a row when Daniel Komen reigned at 1997 Athens only for Moroccan Salah Hissou to halt their dominance with victory at 1999 Seville, where Benjamin Limo settled for silver.
Richard Limo might have reclaimed the title for Kenya at 2001 Edmonton but it’s the 19-year-old Eliud Kipchoge, who stunned 12:52.79 Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele to clinch the world title at 2003 Saint-Denis in a Championship record time of 12:52.79. The record still stands.
Kenyan- born Bernard Lagat of USA would win in 2007 Osaka, before Farah glided to his history-making hat-trick to defend the title after Kirui with wins at 2011 Daegu, 2013 Moscow and 2015 Beijing.
However, Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris brought Farah's reign to an end when he beat him in 2017 London, with the Briton settling for silver.
Cheruiyot (2009, 2011), Defar (2007, 2013) and Dibaba (2003, 2005) have won the world title twice each as Obiri stunned favourite and defending champion Almaz Ayana at 2017 London.
Ayana, who had won in 2015 Beijing, had to settle for silver in London.
Ethiopia and Kenya have completely locked out other countries from the World Under-20 Championships in men’s 5000m, where they have so far shared equally the number of wins.
They have eight each with some of their most famous win coming through Daniel Komen (Kenya) in 1994 (Kenya) and Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) in 1992.
Edward Zakayo ended Kenya’s eight years wait with victory last year in Poland, what with Beatrice Chebet handing the country its maiden victory over the distance.