FIRST AFRICAN STEPS/ MEXICO 1968 : Kipchoge Keino’s crazy bet
When he made his intentions clear of competing in three distances at the Mexico Olympics, that is the 1500m, 5000m, 10.000m, Kipchoge Keino created sensation. Some criticized his gluttony while others blasted him off. In 1968, the Kenyan did not represent anything big on the world athletic stage. There were indications, but not certainties. Effectively, the Games started on a bad note for the Mount Nandis native. Kipchoge is forced to withdraw from the 10.000m following stomach ache. The victory of his compatriot Naftali Temu reduced his disappointment. Second major setback for the runner: this time in the 5000m Keino committed two serious errors. The first was did he did not have a good start in order to outpace his immediate rivals and secondly he underestimated the acceleration capacity of Tunisia’s Mohamed Gammoudi. Finally he consoled himself with a silver medal. These two setbacks threw the Kenyan back on the wall. He reacted with total determination by registering an impressive time of 3’34”9 in the 1500m. Assisted by his compatriot Ben Jipcho in the first 800 metres, Kipchoge outpaced the favourite of the race, America’s Jimmy Ruyn. The police inspector of Kigo had finally taken his revenge. He beat the Americans, Australians and Europeans in the 1500m of the Olympics. He defeated those everyone thought were untouchables. Though he did not achieve his bet in the three races, his performance signaled the beginning of an African domination in these distances. And particularly in the 1500m where he was succeeded by his compatriots Peter Rono, Noah Ngeny, Asbel Kipro but before them the Maghrebians Said Aouita, Nordine Morceli, Hicham El Guerroudj had equally won the event.
Born on the 17 January in Kipsamo, Kenya
1m70, 68 kg
Specialty: 1500m, 5000 m, 10 000 m
Olympic records: 1500 m: 1968 (1st), 1972 (2nd), 5000 m 1964 (5th), 1968 (2nd), 3000 m steeple: 1972 (1st).