With IRB 7s 2015/16 season done and dusted, can we conquer in Rio?

IRB 7s Series 2015-16
The 3rd weekend of May 2016 was always going to be a momentous one for Kenyan rugby fans, more specifically for the 7s game. Well, after the Singapore and Paris rounds of the HSBC 7s IRB Series, the expectations would only get higher. Unfortunately the Kenyan 7s team, affectionately known as the Shujaa Pride, seemed to have run out of steam in the final outing in London’s Twickenham Grounds.

Collins Injera – image courtesy of www.osbke.com

One Collins Injera had other ideas though. The winger who is celebrating 10 years since making his debut to the Kenya 7s team topped the tries to become leading try scorer of all time. After passing the previous record of 230 tries, he went on to add 4 more tries on the last day to increase his tries at 235. Below is a list of the top 5 leading try scorers;

  1. Collins Injera (Kenya) – 235 tries;
  2. Santiago Gomez Cora (Argentina) – 230 tries;
  3. Ben Gollings (England) – 220 tries;
  4. Dan Norton (England) -210 tries;
  5. Fabian Jurles (South Africa) – 179 tries.

{Special mention too to Humphrey Kayange, Collin’s elder brother who is 8th on the rankings with 159 tries}.
Congratulations to Collins Injera and the Kenya 7s team for achieving this feat! Commendable job by the team finishing 7th in the log of IRB 7s teams with 98 points , 1 point less than the highest ever points.
The team came of age this season winning at least 1 of the circuit series in Singapore though they featured in less Main Cup action than would have been anticipated. The team has also been able to withstand initial woes of delayed salaries (though not fully resolved yet). They have also had a fairly common front with the team management. This stability has ensured less rocking and more focus on the team’s deliverables.
With the IRB 2015/16 circuit coming to an end, the second half of the tough year starts almost immediately. These include;

  • Rio Olympics Games 
  • Kenya 7s circuit in the 3rd and 4th Quarters of 2016 (to be reviewed in Sep 2016)
  • IRB 2016/17 Circuit (to be reviewed in Oct 2016)

Rio Olympics Games



Having qualified among the last slots as Africa representatives, the Kenya 7s team saw its resurgence which formed the basis of the current success. However this will be banished first due to its sterling performances making them marked by the bigger teams.

The success too has meant the team has kept within its current players utilising a minimal number as substitutes along the season. This may again work as double-edged sword as the experience will serve them well. The negative though is the exhaustion from a tough season and the harsh weather in Rio.

Again the limited pool of players (sic) may hurt the team going from the circuit to the Olympics and onto to the new season 2016/17. No belittling the achievement of the Collins Injeras and Humphrey Kayanges of the team, it is also time new talent gets to step up and take the place.

The more realistic target would be for a medal bracket – Bronze medal at the worst. Gold and Silver would be ideal but you can lest assured the big boys in Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, fellow African reps South Africa as well as Argentina and USA will be no pushovers for the summer festival of Games.

Preparations will also be key to how the team performs. Here we invoke the GoK and the sponsors who first need sort out the payments to ensure players are fully remunerated. Being one of the few semi-professional sides in the top 10 of the IRB circuit, the players make heavy sacrifices. Its only fair they get rewarded their hard-earned monies.

Still relating to preparations, the pre-Games camp will be integral to ensure the team doesn’t run rugged in the humid conditions of tropical Rio. Ideally a few days in Mombasa or such a location would mimic the conditions down in Brazil.

Finally the Olympic team for Kenya under GoK and NOCK supervision would make ours a worthy Games. Previous Games have seen #TeamKenya get a raw deal with arguments over non-essential travel parties ( Sports CS READ THIS) making the Games at the expense of players and essential technical team members.

Once these are addressed, we can sit and enjoy an entertaining debut of the 7s rugby game in Rio, watching our only team hopefuls for #TeamKenya repping the country. Over to you KRU, GoK and NOCK!

Road to Olympics – Beijing 2008 Olympics Games

Beijing 2008 logo – courtesy of www.olympic.org

In the final part of our Road to Olympics, we look at the most recent Games the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games held in China.


These Games were in many ways the ‘coming out’ party for the People’s Republic of China and indeed they put up a great spectacle. From modern venues to a well-choreographed opening ceremony, the Games were one of the biggest in recent times. There were other major milestones which included live broadcasts done via Internet as well as the emergence of social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter which would change the way sport was viewed and reported. The shadow of Chinese authorities censorship did not escape observers though this was largely undone during the span of the Games.


Highlights:

  • China’s hosting meant that they emerged top of the medals standings by a haul – 51 Gold  compared to USA’s 36 – in the process setting a new record for most medals won in any single Games without boycotts (USSR had won 80 Gold in 1980 & USA 83 in 1984 but both had major boycotts).
  • The Bird’s Nest & Water Cube ( Beijing National Stadium and Beijing National Aquatics Center respectively) were some of the more enduring venues of any Olympic Games.
  • Concerns of pollution and insecurity had been expressed before the start of the Games but none of these came to fore during the Games exonerating the Beijing organisers.
  • Li Ning’s lighting of the torch was also one of the biggest highlights of the Games ( marketers also note it for the fact that he used his own shoe label instead of China’s official sponsors, Nike).
  • More than 100 Heads of States and Governments attended the Games during its whole duration. This is in addition to the 205 countries attending through their respective National Olympic Committees.
  • Michael Phelps finally broke the record for most gold medals in a single Olympics taking 8 Gold and breaking 7 world records and 1 Olympic record in the process.
  • Liu Xiang broke his home fans by dropping out of the 110m hurdles race which he had been favoured to win.

Beijing 2008 mascots

Kenyan Highlights:

  • After poor shows in the 1990s and early 2000s, Kenya finally reigned supreme taking 6 Gold 4 Silver and 4 Bronze ( 5 were won at the Games while the 6th was awarded to 1500m men 2nd-placed Asbel Kiprop after initial winner Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi was stripped for use of illegal substances)
  • Women medallists equalled the men  winning 3 Gold same as their male counterparts.
  • Other medallists included ; Gold –  800m women Pamela Jelimo, Wilfred Bungei 800m men, Nancy Lagat 1500m women, Brimin Kipruto 3000m men’s steeplechase and (the late)Samuel Wanjiru – men’s marathon; Silver – Janeth Jepkosgei 800m women, Eunice Jepkorir 3000m women’s steeplechase , Eliud Kipchoge  5000m men and Catherine Ndereba – women’s marathon, while Bronze went to Alfred Kirwa 800m men, Richard Mateelong 3000m steeplechase, Edwin Cheruiyot 5000m men and Micah Yogo 10000m men.
  • In swimming Jason Dunford, temporarily held the Olympic record for the 100m butterfly men’s event winning his Heat (7) in 51.14 seconds ( it’s now the African and Kenyan record). He did make the finals but was placed 7th. No mean achievement in itself! 
  • Kenya also sent a rower Matthew Lidaywa -who placed 30th in the finals of the Single Sculls- another first for the country in any Olympics!

Running for Black Gold – Book Review

When Africa’s best will be competing at the Olympics showpiece in a week’s time, they shall be looking for inspiration and hoping to be the same pedigree that has gone before them. This pedigree has been captured in a new book titled – Running for Black Gold – by Kevin Lillis ( and Photography by Mark Shearman).

This 170- pager seeks to record the history of African athletes at the Olympic Games as organised by IOC and the World Athletics Championships (held under IAAF). The author worked in many African countries and thus been able to document the achievements of African athletes. This is from the 1960 when Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila won Africa her first Gold medal to the last Olympic Games in Beijing and the World Athletics championships in Daegu, South Korea.

” After Abebe Bikila’s Olympic marathon gold medals in world record times in both Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964), African athletes began to assume greater prominence. At the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964, Africa claimed two medals in addition to Bikila’s marathon gold. Wilson Kiprugut( Kenya) won a bronze at 800 metres – improving that to silver in Mexico City (1968).”  



Starting off with his own trials of running a pre-qualification marathon event ( in the preface), the writer goes on to give details of the achievements of athletes from the major nations of  Eastern Africa’s Ethiopia and Kenya who have won Africa most of her medals.

” Fortified, I halted pitifully to the stadium entrance and then, again pure hubris, raised my sprint around the remaining 385 yards to the finish where the 13 runners who had preceded me to the tape gave the politest, humorous ripple of applause, the late great Naftali amongst them, still clutching that stopwatch, which recorded me, last man in, as 66 minutes behind the 2.14.00 of the winner, Philip Ndoo….I felt like Pheidippides himself, but Philip’s time, at altitude, was faster than that of Bikila’s 1960 world record gold medal in Rome.”

Though bereft of actual athletes profiles and life beyond the running field, the book captures the performances of each of Africa’s best performers track record.

Table 6.6 show African Female ‘Black Gold; Hall of Fame where the top 3 female athletes are ‘unsuprisingly’ Ethiopian; below is a sketched sample of the table;

Olympics
IAAF
World
World
Records
G
S
B
G
S
B
Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH)
2
0
1
4
0
0
1
Meseret Defar (ETH)
1
0
1
1
1
2
2
Derartu Tulu (ETH)
2
0
1
1
1
0

Here’s another sample of the writing:

” The narrative has remarked many times with a sense of wonder and admiration at the brilliance of the cast of African runners, their grace, uninhibited speed, beauty, and unbounded, unbridled joie de vivre and joie de courir – kimbia bwana kimbia!”

The book does well to enumerate the achievements of various athletes both male and female who have put Africa on the map. With great images meant to celebrate the track kings and queens, the reader will be taken back over the 5 decades of mixed bag of success and missed opportunities.The medal tallies and various records have been clearly outlined in tables.The same goes for the world records which have been set over the same distances at both the Olympics and World championships. 

The book though is not your usual long prose reading leaving out the finer details of the athletes featured. It would have definitely taken longer to capture such information. It also does not also try to solve the mystery of why athletes from some countries and regions are more successful than others – but does query and make that note in the Introduction.

But for you who’s looking to learn what African athletes have achieved, this is a worthy book. For the athletics and sports writers of our generation, the facts and figures are important to note.The foreword is aptly done by Dr. Mike Boit, himself a former Kenyan athlete and various notable sports editors of their time are also acknowledged for the assistance they offered. They include Don Beet formerly with East African Standard and Drum Magazine; John Steward, formerly an expatriate teacher in Kisii and Peter Moll formerly sports editor at the Daily Nation and Africa Sports.

 It will be released soon to coincide with the start of the Olympic Games in London. Here’s the link on Amazon. For Kenyan readers, you can contact local publishers , East African Educational Publishers for a copy.

Olympics 2012 – Kenyan Sports Officials’ Gravy Train…

Media reports over the weekend reported the apprehension and confusion that is going into Kenya’s preparations for the London Olympics which start in a little over 10 days from today. After Kenya’s trials were completed in June, it was all systems go for preparations for a respectable if not historic medal harvest.
But right from the word go, we have been hearing of grumbling from Kenyan athletes and officials arriving too early under the pretext of preparations.
The training camp at Bristol has come under scrutiny with some complaints of the facilities needing some sprucing up ( for the swimmers) and also the lack of altitude that would have an effect for the athletes in the athletics discipline.
That officials would start arriving a full 3 weeks to the opening of the Games smacks of irresponsibility and excesses in their part to earn unwarranted allowances. We know that Kenya’s marketing team in Brand Kenya had already made plans to set up shop in London ( the venue is branded as “Kenya House”). This is to try market the country as a favourable destination for not just the usual tourism circuits but also for investment opportunities e.g in infrastructure and ICT, but also sports tourism among many others.
Reliable sources inform us of how Government and parastatal officials have been fighting to be included in the trip not so much because of their working briefs but instead to ‘enjoy the trappings of a fully-sponsored outing by the Government’ – indulge in shopping sprees, enjoy access to some of the venues and also for some of them to treat their girlfriends and boyfriends (yes even the married ones) to sights and sounds of the UK!
That officials would be so carefree to leave the athletes to their own destiny is quite deplorable to say the least. We also saw the way one of the athletes who had been named in the 4 x 400m men’s relay team was treated and sent back home just a few days after reporting to camp.
Which begs these questions;

  • Why would Kenyan sports authorities sign up for training facilities without vetting them properly?
  • Why should the bulk of the athletes report to camp a whole month into the Games even when the officials know that conditions at the training camps are not ideal?
  • Who vets the number of officials who leave the country to make the necessary preparations for the athletes and other parties relating the Olympic travelling team?
  • How many sports associations are represented at the Games? And should they be there in the first place if their sports men and women are NOT represented? 
  • Year in year out, we’re treated to the charades of Kenyan sports and Government officials who have no business being at major sporting events being part of the contingent. Bwana Waziri, can you tell us who caters for their expenses and if so why waste taxpayers monies ‘chasing dreams’? {NB: The All-Africa Games in Maputo – Mozambique had similar claims and the findings from Parliament are yet to come out. We can almost guarantee a similar story come September…}
  • Why do our sports officials sacrifice the sports people at the altar of greed and selfish ego-trips?
If Kenya does not realise its full potent in winning the maximum number of gold medals, at least we have an inkling of where to apportion the blame. 

Julius Yego – Profile of a future Olympian

For most of us, YouTube is a form of entertainment as well as watching ‘edu-tainment’ clips or the latest music videos. For sports lovers, it serves as a nice platform for catching and replaying precious moments in their favourite sports events.

Julius Yego – trail-blazing Kenyan javelin thrower 

Enter Julius Yego – this Kenyan athlete (… no, not the typical track specialist) had other ideas for YouTube. Participating in an event which has never been a speciality for Kenya let alone Africa, he managed to hone his skill and better his technique using this social media platform.
And true to word, his skill got better and his techniques won him the first ever gold medal for a field event for Kenya in the 2011 All-Africa Games in the Mozambican capital of Maputo. This he did by breaking the national record to a then new record throw of 78.34m ( he has since broken it once to 79.95m and attained standard B throw length for the London Olympics).
Thanks to his exploits and his parent sports association in the name of Athletics Kenya, he managed to secure 2 months training stint in Finland which effects led to his attaining qualifying standards. Hoping to better his throwing before the start of the July-August event, Yego will surely join the many sports men and women who have made Olympic folklore not just by becoming champions but also by the mere part of participating in this 4-year sporting extravaganza.
And he stills recognises the role that social media plays in his everyday life of ensuring he becomes a world beater in the throw sport of javelin….thanks to YouTube!
He’s truly a Kenyan and African sports legend in the making. Here’s an article from Chinese’s Xinhua on Julius Yego.

Samuel Wanjiru’s Book Doodloper ( Death Runner) is Out

In commemoration of Samuel Wanjiru’s life on the first anniversary of his tragic death, a Dutch journalist Frits Conijn prepares to launch a book Doodloper ( Death Runner – The tragic end of Olympic marathon winner Samuel Wanjiru).

Doodloper – cover of the Samuel Wanjiru book

This famous athlete who died under mysterious circumstances in the yet-to-be resolved case was one of Kenya’s best marathon who led from the front giving Kenya her first ever marathon gold in the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. This has set the pace for Kenyan marathoners who have grown in leaps and bounds in the last 24 months winning major marathons across the world and breaking the world record too in the men’s race.
Back to Samuel Wanjiru’s book, Frits Conijn and Simon Maziku ( Tanzanian-born now Dutch citizen) seeks to tell the story of the life beyond the marathoner’s seemingly rosy success that he enjoyed to a rather lonely and sometimes fast-paced life that the runner led outside the race tracks.
It also tells of the downsides of the success borne by this great young man who was immensely talented as acknowledged by athletics critics. The book comes at a time when Kenya is busy preparing her team for the Olympic Games in London seeking to retain among others the marathon title that Wanjiru won.
The book should also be a constant reminder to upcoming talent of the need to stay grounded amidst the glitz and glamour that their careers are bound to bring. For more details, see this story by sports journo, Elias Makori in the Daily Nation – Tragedy behind Wanjiru’s smile. You can also follow Frits Conijn on his Twitter handle @FritsConijn for updates on his travails across E.African and Dutch sport.

Road to Olympics – Los Angeles 1984… Kenya’s Back !

1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games logo

After missing two consecutive Games, Kenyan sports people were thrilled to be back on the international arena. But the toll of the boycotts was all clear given the lack of participation. This was reflected on the number of athletes sent and also the performance of the team at large.

As a whole, Los Angeles was one of the most successful Olympic Games. This was thanks to the marketing acumen and organisational skills of one Peter Ueberroth – Time’s Magazine Person of the Year 1984. Let’s take some highlights here below;

  • ‘Returning the favour’ for the US-led boycott of 1980 Moscow Games, the USSR led 14 countries in a boycott and went on to hold the Friendship Games. 2 other nations in Iran and Libya meant 16 countries in total boycotted Los Angeles.
  • More than a Sporting Festival – the Games had an elaborate Festival ‘ the LA Olympic Arts Festival which was held to mark and appreciate the role of arts and sports. In the same vein, the Opening and Closing ceremonies had some of the most elaborate shows of that time. Concerts were organised to feed Games attendants and the world audience with a feast of entertainment.
      Sam the Eagle – 1984 Olympic Games mascot
  • Carl Lewis legend is born – this man who’s loved and loathed in almost equal measure ran and jump to equal Jesse Owens 1936 Olympic Games exploits winning 4 gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and the long jump.  These would be the first of nine gold medals in his Olympic years.
  • Nawal el Moutawakel from Morocco became the first female from a Muslim state to win gold in an Olympic Games. She won this in the 400m women’s hurdles.
  • Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin all future NBA Hall of Famers would win their first gold medal as part of the USA Basketball team as amateurs. They would return in 1992 as the Dream Team which included the creme de la creme of the NBA.
  • Lord. Sebastien ‘Seb’ Coe would become the 1st man to win consecutive titles in the 1500m men’s race. 2 decades later he led London’s successful bid for the 2012 Olympic Games. 


Figures:
  • 140 nations participated with a total of 6,800 athletes representing these countries;
  • Kenya had 61 athletes ( 56 men and 5 women); participating in Athletics, Boxing, Hockey, Shooting and Weightlifting;
  • Kenya won ONLY 1 Gold ( Julius Korir – 3000m steeplechase), 2 Bronze ( Mike Musyoki – 10000m and Ibrahim Bilali – Flyweight in boxing);
  • The Kenyan men’s Hockey team was placed 9th out of 12 nations participating. They were the sole African representatives
Julius Korir – 3000m Gold medal winner in 1984
The Los Angeles Olympic Games marked a positive turn for the IOC which had been reeling from two fairly unsuccessful Games in Montreal and Moscow with the former being a commercial disaster for the Canadian hosts.
It also saw major corporates joining the big league in sports through sponsorship deals which ensured the commercial success of the Games. These included McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Kodak among other major corporations. Nike also achieved much of success due to its links with American athletes who excelled in many of the sporting disciplines. 

Road to Olympics – 1976 Montreal & 1980 Moscow Games Boycotts Galore…

99 days to London Olympic Games, we continue with the Road to Olympics. 
In this review , we look at the forgettable moments in Kenya’s history when her sports personalities were affected by economic and geo-political reasons meaning consecutive boycotts in Montreal in 1976 and in Moscow – 1980.

Montreal 1976:

After the breach of tranquil at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, countries across the world decided to use the Games a perfect platform to prove a point or two especially where the Cold War and other political ideologies clashed.
Montreal had seemed to have escaped this up until the opening ceremony when Congolese Jean Claude Ganga and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere among other African leaders urge African countries to leave the Games. This was in protesting a move by the New Zealand rugby team’s All Blacks tour to apartheid South Africa ( even though rugby was NOT an Olympic discipline).
Most countries had already sent in their squads and though it was a moral issue to support the boycott, this dented many a sportsmen and women who were approaching the prime or in the sunset of their careers.
Kenya’s prowess in the middle and longer distances would not be for show as athletes such as Henry Rono, (Dr). Mike BoitMike Musyoki and also boxers such as Stephen Muchoki – who would never taste Olympic glory.
There were a few highlights though that need be noted from Montreal Games;

  • 10-point score Nadia Comaneci – this is a feat that had never been achieved and has never been attained either. The then 14-year old Romanian ended up winning 3 gold including the prestigious All-Around which effectively put her into Olympic folklore.
  • 5 American boxers won Gold medals in their respective weights. 4 of those would turn professional and have fairly successive careers. These were Sugar Ray Leonard, brothers Leon Spinks and Michael Spinks and Leo Randolph. The fifth boxer was Howard Davis Jr – Val Baker Trophy winner in Montreal – who turned down offers to turn professional.
  • Princess Anne – member of British royalty participated as part of the Horse riding or Equestrian team. She was the ONLY one not forced to comply to a sex-test.
  • Future Japanese PM Taro Aso  took part representing Japan in shooting 
  • 92 countries took part ; 6073 athletes took part in 198 events in 23 disciplines. The drop was obvious due to the late boycotts.

Moscow 1980
After the boycott of the 1976 Games, though the then USSR had tried putting up a marvellous show, its invasion of Afghanistan meant another boycott led this time by USA. The Games were at the height of their propagation by Governments across the world to push their political and economic agendas. The USSR needed to prove that it could pull off a major event of this magnitude but with the other super-power USA able to pull the mat from under them, it didn’t quite have the impact the Soviets wanted.
The US held what they called the Liberty Bell Classic also referred to as ‘ Olympic Boycott Games’.  
Going the Games proper though, due to the reduced number of participants it proved to have few controversies and traditional rivalries never realised. Here’s a review of some of the interesting highlights;

  • Ethiopia’s Miruts Yifter won the 5000m and 10000m – grabbing the double for the men’s events. This was emulating Lasse Viren’s feats in the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games
  • 5259 athletes participated in 203 events for 23 sports – this represented one of the lowest figures of overall participants since 1968 in Mexico. 
  • East Europe and Communist-leaning nations were among the major winners thanks to the boycott to more capitalist states.
  • The Games had the lowest number of drug cheats since the practice was introduced in 1964 in Tokyo.
  • The closing ceremony introduced a practice of hoisting the next host city’s flag and lowering the Olympic flag. 
  • This was the last time Kenya boycotted an Olympic Games 

Road to Olympics – 1972 Munich Games – A Bow before the Lull…

Munich ’72
After enjoying a great showing at the Mexico Games 4 years earlier, the expectations from Olympic Games fans were high. But before we get to the actual Games, a brief reminiscence of the year 1972. The world was generally polarised by various political, economic and religious issues.
With the major powers slowly advancing with their Cold War, others busy engaging East Asia tigers which were quickly industrialising. Africa too was now taking a place in the world map as many independent states started encountering upheavals, dictatorships and overthrows. S.Americans too had similar challenges coupled with climatic changes. The Middle East would be thrust into the spotlight for both good and bad reasons relating to the oil crisis, monopolising of the same, terrorism and relentless battles within.

Munich Olympic Stadiumwww.ballparks.com

Back to matters sport, Germany had recovered from the World Wars challenges and now becoming a major industrial power thanks to its ingenious enterprising and technical manpower. The city of Munich hosted one of the most memorable Games, both tragic and heroic in equal measure. Here’s a look at a few of the highlights;

Interesting Facts:


  • Mark Spitz ” 7-star hero” – this was because of his phenomenal performance in the pool tallying a total of 7 gold medals, along with 7 swimming world records. He had done 2 gold in Mexico and thus this was always coming from this human phenomenon. He’s one of the most famous and recognizable Olympians ever.
    7-Star Hero – Mark Spitz
  • USSR ‘beats’ USA  – In one of the most controversial moments of the Olympic Games, the former Soviet Union ‘beat’ US of A in the basketball final game. After leading 50-49, some flawed timing and calls were made & the Soviets quickly made a basket, before the final horn. The USA team refused to recognise the result and consequently avoided the medal award ceremony for their silver. It has never been awarded to this day.
  • 2 more bans-for-life – As if to spite their fellow Americans, two athletes of African origin were banned for life after taking the awards ceremony ‘too casually’…twirling with their medals and not facing the flag as their national anthem was played. Vincent Matthews and Wayne Collett are the culprits!
  • Munich massacre – one of the most infamous incidences to ever occur during the Olympics took place at the Olympic Village where Palestine guerillas attacked the Israeli camp and took hostage of some of their athletes. Eventually 11 Israeli hostages were killed while the Palestinian attackers lost all but 3 of their own. 
  • Future Olympians Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba, the late Richard Chelimo and Mozambique’s Maria Mutola were born this year.
  • This would also mark the last Olympics before Kenya took an 8 years hiatus from the Games thanks to the Cold War freeze and boycotts to the Montreal Games in 1976 and the Moscow Games in 1980. This also affected the future performances in the sporting disciplines. 
Philip Waruinge – www.life.com


Key Figures &  Results:

  •  7113 participants took part representing a rise by 28% of total participation;
  • 121 countries were represented 
  • 193 competitions were held in 23 sporting disciplines
  • Kenya took part in 4 disciplines same as 1968 – Athletics, Boxing, Hockey & Shooting
  • Kenya won 2 Gold – Kip Keino (3000m steeplechase) & 4 x 400m men’s relay; 3 Silver – Philip Waruinge (Featherweight), Ben Jipcho (3000m steeplechase) and Kip Keino 1500m and finally 4 Bronze medals; Julius Sang 400m flat, Mike Boit 800m and Richard ‘Dick’ Murunga in boxing’s welterweight.
  • The Gold in 3000m Men’s Steeplechase would mark the start of a winning tradition for Kenya in all Olympic Games it participated in going forward. This would be replicated in major athletic meets such as the World Athletics championships and All-Africa Games among others
  • It would also be the last time Kenya took part in the next 8 years; boycotting Montreal in 1976 and Moscow in 1980 – thanks to the political tensions  and the Cold War increasingly maligning developing countries versus their more developed counterparts.

Road to Olympics : 1968 Mexico Games – Kenya sees Gold !

After participating in 3 consecutive Olympic Games, the country was slowly yearning for better achievements and for this the country’s sports personalities were well rewarded. Mexico City – Mexico was also a first of many sorts and it earned a mixed bag of fortunes.

Mexico 1968image from www.olympics.org

Let’s look at the facts and figures from the Games;

Figures & Results:

‘Speed-Cop’ Kipchoge Keinoimage from Rich Clarkson
  • 5556 participants from 112 countries was a marked improvement from the Tokyo Games ’64;
  • 172 events were held in 20 sports disciplines;
  • Kenya participated in 4 sports disciplines – Athletics, Boxing, Hockey and Shooting;
  • Kenya was placed 14th overall, a major improvement on the 1964 Games where she placed  35th.
  • Kenya won 3 Gold namely; Kipchoge Keino-1,500m (M), Naftali Temu-10,000m and Amos Biwott-3000m steeplechase (which was to become Kenya’s mainstay for any major events she participated in) ; 4 Silver; Wilson Kiprugut-800m, Kipchoge Keino-5,000m , Ben Kogo-3,000m steeplechase and the 4x400m men’s team ( Daniel Rudisha, Charles Asati,Naftali Bon and Munyoro Nyamau); 2 Bronze; Naftali Temu-5,000m and Philip Waruinge -Featherweight boxing;
  • Philip Waruinge was awarded the Val Barker Trophy for the Most Outstanding boxer ‘pound-for-pound’, despite winning the bronze in Featherweight. He remains the only African boxer to have won the trophy to date. 
  • Kenya’s Hockey team finished 8th overall, a drop from the 6th position from Tokyo Games;
  • One John Harun (Mwau) was ranked 76th in Shooting’s Mixed Small -Bore Rifle, Prone 50m. (He’s currently an MP in Kenya’s Parliament having had an illustrious career in the Kenya Police, Interpol as well as the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission).

Interesting Facts:


  • As quoted in an online forum, this was the first Olympic Games to have ‘first large-scale incursion of politics directly in the Olympic venues’.
  • Mexico was the first developing country to host the Olympics. It was also at its ‘highest altitude’ ever at 2,240m (7,350 ft) a.s.l.(above sea level).
  • Tommie Smith and John Carlos – US 200m (gold & bronze winners respectively)sprinters raised their fists clothed in black gloves during the medal awards ceremony- as a symbol of protest against human rights violation to the Black populace in United States. They also asked Australia’s Peter Norman to wear a badge in solidarity with them. This cost them a life ban from any future Olympic Games or IOC-related events which was a bit too harsh if you ask me…
  • Also joining in political protest was one Vera Caslavska – from former state Czechoslovakia ( now Czech & Slovak Republics after fall of communism in Eastern Europe) – her silent protest during medal awards was against Soviet invasion of the state.
  • As noted before, Mexico City has the highest altitude ever for an Olympic event at 2,240m a.s.l – some in athletics were worried about its effects on the athletes including Kenya’s own ‘speed cop’ Kip Keino but this turned out to a blessing in disguise with record-breaking performances from some of the other events.
  • Bob Beamon (US) leapt 8.90m in the men’s long jump to what would be one of athletics’ most enduring world records. It still is the Olympic record.
  • Sequence of Fosbury Flopimage from www.shorecrest.org
  • Dick Fosbury (US) won the high jump with the unconventional Fosbury Flop. This would eventually be adopted by most if not all high jumpers.
  • One Jacques Rogge (current IOC President) represented Belgium for the first in 3 Olympic Games appearances in yachting. 
  • John S. Akhwari(Tanzania) finished the men’s marathon with a dislocated knee and this became a lasting symbol of the Olympic Games spirit – quipped here saying “my country did not send me 10,000 miles just to start the race, they sent me to finish the race. He is currently an Olympic Goodwill ambassador.
  • Tlateloclo massacre – this happened 10 days to the opening of the Games and almost derailed the event. 44 people were killed as students and civilians rioted against ‘repressive actions and blatant violation of university autonomy’ by the Mexican government. A blown-up kite was flighted during the Games with the black shadow representing a ‘silent protest’ by the students.
  • Drug-testing debuted to check on performance-enhancing drugs which was becoming a thorn in the flesh for amateur sports.

All in all, the Games marked an improved performance from Kenya and many African countries as most continued enjoying their newly-found independence from their colonial masters.
The Games had now become a major political platform for many States which knew that with the world glued to the television and other media channels, it was the perfect place to send out whatever message – be it silent, symbolic or otherwise.
Commercialisation of sports was also at its formative stages and going into the 1970s, this would form the basis of future sports business for most if not all sporting disciplines and events.

Sources:
International Olympics Committee www.olympic.org
National Olympic Committee-Kenya
Britannica Encyclopedia www.britannica.com
About.com www.about.com
Wikipedia www.wikipedia.com