Heading into Seoul, Kenya had enjoyed some sporting successes in various disciplines. John Ngugi had won the World Cross Country championships in 1986, retaining it in 1987 and again in 1988. Kenyan athletes had dominated the All African Games in Nairobi.
Douglas Wakiihuri had won the marathon gold medal at the World Athletic Championships in Rome. Kenya’s hockey and boxing teams were equally successful at these games.
Crossing over to football, and though Kenya was not represented at the Olympics, Gor Mahia had won the African Cup Winners Cup in 1987 while the national football team had won silver at the 1987 All African Games in Nairobi. Indeed there was a feel good factor about Kenyan sport.
This feel good factor spilled over to the Seoul Olympics, where Kenya bagged nine medals, five gold, two silver and two bronze to crown their best showing since their debut in 1956.
74 athletes ( 70 men and 4 women) represented Kenya in a total of seven disciplines namely Athletics, Boxing, Hockey, Judo, Shooting, Weightlifting and Wrestling.
It was an Olympiad of firsts. Robert Wangila “Napunyi” became the first Kenyan boxer to reach an Olympic final since Philip Waruinge in 1972. “Napunyi” bettered Waruinge’s silver medal performance from Munich by knocking out Frenchman Laurent Boudani to claim gold in the welterweight category, the first ever boxing gold medal by a Kenyan or African boxer.
Starehe Boys Center alumnus Paul Ereng was a rank outsider heading into the games in Seoul. A strong semifinal performance make the world take notice of him and he did not disappoint, turning on the afterburners to claim Kenya’s first ever gold medal over 800m in a time of 1 minute 43. 55 seconds.
Peter Rono won Kenya’s first gold medal over the 1500m since Kip Keino’s triumph in 1968 (Mexico), emerging best in a tactical race in a time of 3 minutes 35. 96 seconds.
Julius Kariuki ensured that the country stayed dominant in the 3000m steeplechase, picking up from where Julius Korir left off in 1984 by winning gold in Seoul in an Olympic record time of 8 minutes 5.51 seconds. Peter Koech claimed silver in 8 minutes 6.79 seconds.
Douglas Wakiihuri, the reigning world champion in the marathon claimed silver in Seoul while bronze medals from Kipkemboi Kimeli in the men’s 10000m and boxer Chris Sande in the middleweight division made it a good outing for Kenya.
Kenya’s contingent to the 1988 Olympics
ATHLETICS: Men: Kennedy Ondiek (100m/200m/4 x 100m relay), Peter Wekesa (100m/ 4 x 100m relay), Simeon Kipkemboi (400m/4 x 100m relay/4 x 400m relay), Lucas Sang (400m/4 x 400m relay) Elkana Nyang’au ( 400m/ 4 x 100m relay), Tito Sawe ( 4 x 400m relay), Paul Ereng ( 800m/ 4 x 400m relay), Nixon Kiprotich, Juma Ndiwa ( 800m), Peter Rono, Kipkoech Cheruiyot, Joseph Chesire ( 1500m), John Ngugi, Yobes Ondieki, Charles Cheruiyot ( 5000m), Kipkemboi Kimeli, Moses Tanui, Boniface Merande ( 10000m), Douglas Wakiihuri, Ibrahim Hussein, Joseph Kipsang (Marathon), Joseph Maritim, Simon Kitur, Gideon Yego ( 400m hurdles), Julius Kariuki, Peter Koech, Patrick Sang ( 3000m steeplechase), William Sawe ( 50km walk), David Lamai (Long Jump)
Women: Joyce Odhiambo ( 100m/ 200m), Susan Sirma (1500m/3000m), Pascaline Wangui (Marathon), Rose Tata-Muya ( 400m hurdles)
BOXING: Maurice Maina (Light flyweight), Anthony Ikegu (Flyweight), Steve Mwema ( Bantamweight), John Wanjau (Featherweight), Patrick Waweru (Lightweight), David Kamau (Light welterweight), Robert Wangila (Welterweight), Mohamed Orungi ( Light middleweight), Chris Sande (Middleweight), Joseph Akhasamba (Light heavyweight), Chrispine Odera (Super Heavyweight)
HOCKEY: Paul Sewe Omany, Parminder Singh Saini, Roy Odhier, Charles Oguk, John Eliud Okoth, Michael Omondi, Samuel Ngoyo, Peter Akatsa, Sanjiwan Goyal, Christopher Otambo, Lucas Alubaha, Victor Owino, Samson Oriso, Inderjit Singh Matharu, Samson Muange, Julius Mutinda
JUDO: John Bogie ( Half lightweight), Nelson Ombito (Lightweight), Tiberius Nyachwaya (Middleweight), James Kihara (Half middleweight)
SHOOTING: Shuaib Adam
WEIGHTLIFTING: Juma Abudu (Featherweight), David Maina (Middleweight), Suleman Juma ( Middle Heavyweight), Pius Ochieng (Heavyweight II)
WRESTLING: Lamachi Elimu (Flyweight Greco Roman), Kiptoo Salbei (Lightweight Greco Roman & Freestyle), Maisiba Obwoge ( Heavyweight Greco Roman & Freestyle), Waruingi Kimani ( Bantamweight Freestyle),