Mexico 1968: Kenya announces herself to the world

Kenya’s fourth appearance at an Olympic games would be a special one for various reasons. The 1968 Olympics in Mexico were the first to be held in a developing country and at high altitude.

It was also the first time since their maiden Olympics appearance in 1956 that the Kenyan contingent of 39 athletes included women- the 18 year old duo of Elizabeth Chesire and Tekla Chemabwai as well as 22 year Lydia Stephens who were all part of the athletics team.

Other disciplines represented were boxing, hockey and shooting.

Heading into Mexico City in October 1968, the Kenyan Olympic team were out to build on the sole bronze medal won by 800m runner Wilson Kiprugut in Tokyo four years earlier and they certainly did so in style.

Naftali Temu of Kenya (right) wins the gold medal in the 10,000 metres event, beating Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia (left) by less than a second during the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, circa October 1968. (Photo by Ed Lacey/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Naftali Temu claimed Kenya’s first ever Gold medal at an Olympic Games, beating a strong field to win the 10000m. He also won a bronze medal in the 5000m.

Amos Biwott, with his then unorthodox hurdling style that saw him go over the water jump in the 3000m/steeplechase and emerge dry, won the first of many Kenya medals over the distance.

Kipchoge Keino, by now a household name worldwide due to his distance running exploits beat the fancied American world record holder over 1500m, Jim Ryun, claiming Olympic Gold over the distance.

Kipchoge Keino wins the 3000m steeplechase gold at the 1968 Olympics ahead of countryman Ben Jipcho

Keino (5000m), Ben Kogo (3000m/steeplechase), Wilson Kiprugut (800m) and the  4x400m men’s team ( Daniel Rudisha, Charles Asati,Naftali Bon and Munyoro Nyamau) were  Kenya’s silver medallists.

Boxer Philip Waruinge, fighting in the featherweight category claimed Kenya’s other bronze medal, incidentally their only one outside the track.

The Kenyan hockey team would place eighth out of sixteen teams to cap an Olympic performance that saw the country announce itself to the world with 3 golds, 4 silvers and 2 bronze medals.

Kenya’s team to the 1968 Mexico Olympics

ATHLETICS:  Men: Julius Sang, Charles Asati (100m/200m/4x400m relay), Munyoro Kamau, Daniel Rudisha, Naftali Bon (400m/400m relay), Wilson Kiprugut, Thomas Saisi, Robert Ouko (800m),  Ben Jipcho (1500m), Kipchoge Keino (1500m/5000m), Naftali Temu (5000m/10000m/Marathon), Paul Mose (Marathon), Kimaru Songok (110m/h & 400m/h), Amos Biwott, Benjamin Kogo (3000m/steeplechase) Women: Lydia Stephens (100m), Tekla Chemabwai (400m), Elizabeth Chesire (800m)

BOXING: Samuel Mbugua (Bantamweight), Philip Waruinge (Featherweight), John Olulu (Light Welterweight), Steven Thega (Light Middleweight)

HOCKEY: John Simonian, Kirpal Singh Bhardwaj, Avtar Singh Sohal, Mohamed Ajmal Malik, Surjeet Singh Panesar, Silverster Fernandes, Leo Fernandes, Hilary Fernandes, Davinder Singh Deegan, Santokh Singh Matharu, Alu Mendonca, Harvinder Singh Marwa, Egbert Fernandes, Renny Pereira

SHOOTING: Dismus Onyiego, John Harun Mwau

 

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