When I bumped into a senior man on June 17th with my huge tripod and cameras, I would not have guessed this was a legend! So full of life and excitement! A young man who held his hand directing him to VIP podium quickly noticed our equipment and asked which media group we belonged to. The tags had us sold in a brisk.
So, the conversation began, “Olympic Kenya? In my days it was NOC-K. I’m John Ngugi.’’
My colleagues and I looking at each other perplexed.
‘’Gold medalist? John Ngugi?”
We almost couldn’t believe it! The only Kenyan athlete to bring home a gold medal in the 1988, Seoul Olympic Games. Mr Ngugi became famous after he confidently broke away from the park early enough and building a huge lead of about 30 meters at the finish. Not only this but the first male athlete to win five times, the World Cross Country Championships; 1986 Switzerland, 1987 Poland, 1988 New Zealand, 1989 Norway and 1992 Boston. Yes kids, the Superman in the 80’s.
In fact, his win in 1989 still remains the largest margin to date. Two years before this he won the 5,000m at the All-Africa Games held in Kenya.
The Seoul Olympic Games remains one of his best performances in 5000 meters. John Ngugi’s explained how his achievement of a gold medal has been of much benefit in his life, uplifted his moral in athletics and life in general. “In other words, determination, working hard, much effort and hope will give them success as this is what helped me throughout my athletic career.’’
He insisted despite his age, the Kenyan trials have always been the hardest and it’s always a dream to attend and see young blood fight courageously for a spot in the Olympics. ‘’ in fact during my year, I was 77th position during Kenya Trials. The Athletic Kenya secretary fought super hard for me to be included on the team so that I could defend my title, since he believed in me and my potential. Some runners in the team threatened to boycott if I was to be included in the team, but their threats didn’t bear fruits.’’
As he waved us to enter the leading light podium, he whispered, “Life is what you make it look like.’’
Thirty three years have gone by and a young John has emerged in Nicholas KImeli who battles it today, the young man who In Hengelo, on 9 June 2019, ran a 5000 metres personal best in under 13 minutes and finished in third place at the 2019 London Grand Prix.
The 5,000m Men has seen silver medals brought home including the two-time gold medalist Kipchoge Keino, Mexico 1968. Paul Bitok, Barcelona 1992 and 1996. Eliud Kipchoge who brought a silver medal in Beijing 2008 and bronze in 2004. Other bronze medalists include Naftali Temu, 1968. Edwin Soi Beijing 2008 and Thomas Longosiwa London, 2012.
The 5,000m starts on Friday 6th August 2021 at 3.00pm Kenyan Time.