Kenya’s Olympic Journey: 1956- 1964

Kenya has competed in almost every Olympic Games since making their debut at the Melbourne Olympics of 1956. With the exception of the 1976 and 1980 games which Kenya and other countries boycotted for varying reasons, it has been a long, winding journey filled with many firsts, highs and lows along the way too. I begin documenting Kenya’s journey over the years.

THE BREAK OUT OLYMPICS

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA 1956

Competing as a colony of Great Britain, Kenya would make their Olympic Games debut in Melbourne, represented in athletics, hockey, swimming and shooting by a contingent of 25.  There were no medals for the team but notable results included Nyandika Maiyoro’s seventh position in the men’s 5000m final, Arap Sum Kanuti’s thirty first position in the men’s marathon and Lerease Joseph’s eighteenth place in the men’s high jump competition.

ROME, ITALY 1960

Kenya sent a twenty seven man contingent to these games, represented in athletics, hockey, shooting and sailing. Nothing much to write home about from these games as the team’s most notable performance was by Nyandika Maiyoro’s sixth placing in the men’s 5000m.

THE BREAKTHROUGH OLYMPICS

TOKYO, JAPAN 1964

Kenya were back at the Olympics for a third successive games, this time taking part in five disciplines namely, athletics, boxing, sailing, shooting and hockey. Future stars Kipchoge Keino, Naftali Temu and Philip Waruinge were part of the travelling party to the Far East as Kenya competed for the first time as an independent nation, having gained freedom from Great Britain in 1963.

800m runner Wilson Kiprugut’s third place in the final race in Tokyo saw him bag Kenya’s first ever medal at an Olympic Games. Kenya’s hockey team put in a strong display, claiming a sixth overall position in their discipline, a feat that would see them ranked sixth globally.

The hockey team missed out on semifinal qualification by a solitary point, finishing third in Pool A with 7 points off three wins, a draw and two defeats. They started with 0-0 draw against Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) before losing 5-2 to Pakistan. They bounced back to beat New Zealand (3-2) and Australia (1-0) but lost 2-0 to hosts Japan. They ended their pool fixtures with a 1-0 win over Great Britain.

Spectators look on in the rain as the Netherlands and Kenya play for 6th place in the Men’s Olympic Field Hockey Tournament match on 21st October 1964 during the XVIII Summer Olympic Games at the Komazawa Hockey Field, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

They then beat the Netherlands 3-1 in the fifth place semis but fell to a 3-0 loss to Germany to finish the tournament in sixth place.

There were further solid displays from two of the five man boxing contingent on duty in Tokyo. Philip Waruinge, a fledgling 19 year old from Nakuru was ranked ninth overall in the featherweight category, same as 20 year old Alex Oundu in the lightweight category.

Kenya’s contingent to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

BOXING: John Kamau (Flyweight) ,Philip Waruinge (Featherweight),John Olulu (Lightwelter),Alex Oundu (Lightweight),Gichere Gakungu (Welterweight)

ATHLETICS: John Owiti (100m),Seraphino Antao (100m/200m),Wilson Kiprugut (400m/800m),Peter Francis (800m),Kipchoge Keino (1500m/5000m),Naftali Temu (10000m/Marathon),Chrisantus Nyakwayo (Marathon),Andrew Soi (Marathon),Benjamin Kogo (3000m steeplechase),Kimaru Songok (400m hurdles),Koech Kiprop (Decathlon)

HOCKEY: Saude George, Anthony Vaz, Avtar Singh Sohal, Santokh Singh Matharu, Surjeet Singh Panesar,Silvester Fernandes, Hilary Fernandes, Edgar Fernandes, Egbert Fernandes,Reynold D’Souza, Alu Mendonca, John Simonian, Krishnan Kumar, Aggarwal, Amar Singh Mangat, Leo Fernandes, Tejparkash Singh Brarf

SAILING: Peter Cooke

SHOOTING: Leonard Bull,Alan Handford-Rice,Michael Horner,Nigel Vernon-Roberts

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