The class of Seoul 1988 had raised the bar with Kenya’s greatest ever showing at the Olympics. The team heading to the 1992 games in Barcelona, Spain certainly had their work cut out for them.
A contingent of 49 athletes (40 men and 9 women) represented the country in five sporting disciplines namely Athletics, Boxing, Judo, Shooting and Weightlifting. For the first time since 1956, Kenya would not be represented in hockey.
William Tanui ensured the men’s 800m title remained in Kenya when he claimed the gold medal in a time of 1 minute 43.66 seconds, finishing 0.04 seconds ahead of compatriot Nixon Kiprotich who settled for silver. Tanui won this race in dramatic fashion, storming down the outside, actually finishing in lane 3 ahead of Kiprotich.
Matthew Birir continued Kenya’s legacy in the 3000m steeplechase claiming gold in 8 minutes 8.84 seconds while countrymen Patrick Sang and William Mutwol took silver and bronze in 8 minutes 9.55 seconds and 8 minutes 10.74 seconds respectively – a clean sleep for Kenya.
At the gun, it seemed like the rest of the world came to run, while the Kenyan team were just tagging along. Starting off slowly, all three Kenyans casually jogged around the outside of the pack and towards the front.
William Mutwol continued, breaking away to as much as a 10-metre lead, with Morocco’s Elarbi Khattabi the only one to bridge the gap. On the next lap, Matthew Birir, running in fourth place, went down on the track, but Birir righted himself quickly and was back on his feet before the back of the strung out field had passed him.
Within two more barriers, he was back in the same fourth-place position. By the time they reached the same spot on the track where Birir fell, he was in third place as the tail of the three man Kenyan breakaway.
Over the next two laps, the only athlete seriously marking the Kenyans was Italian Alessandro Lambruschini. Just after two laps to go, Patrick Sang edged ahead of Mutwol with Lambruschini gaining a little ground between barriers and losing the same amount each time he went over one.
With a lap to go, Birir moved into the lead and the Kenyan sweep simply pulled away from Lambruschini, with the rest of the field already disappeared behind. No drama, no hurdling the water jump, no challenges, not even any sprinting. Lambruschini finished fourth for the second Olympics in a row, more than 25 metres behind Mutwol.
Paul Bitok and Richard Chelimo claimed Kenya’s other silver medals in the 5000m and 10000m respectively while Samson Kitur won Kenya’s first medal in the 400m since 1972 when he claimed bronze in Barcelona.
Kenya finished these games with two golds, four silvers and two bronze.
Kenya’s contingent to Barcelona 1992
ATHLETICS: Men: Kennedy Ondiek (100m/200m), Simon Kipkemboi (200m/ 4 x 400m relay), Samson Kitur, Simon Kemboi, David Kitur (400m/ 4 x 400m relay), Abednego Matilu (4 x 400m relay), William Tanui, Nixon Kiprotich, Paul Ereng (800m), Joseph Chesire, Jonah Birir, David Kibet (1500m), Paul Bitok, Yobes Ondieki, Dominic Kirui (5000m), Richard Chelimo, William Koech, Moses Tanui (10000m), Boniface Merande, Douglas Wakiihuri, Ibrahim Hussein (Marathon), Barnabas Kinyor, Erick Keter, Gideon Yego (400m hurdles), Matthew Birir, Patrick Sang, William Mutwol (3000m steeplechase), James Sabulei, Benjamin Koech (Long Jump)
Women: Gladys Wamuyu (800m), Susan Sirma ( 1500m), Esther Kiplagat, Jane Ngotho, Pauline Konga (3000m), Hellen Kimaiyo, Tekla Lorupe, Lydia Cheromei (10000m), Pascaline Wangui (Marathon)
BOXING: James Wanene (Light flyweight), Benjamin Ngaruiya (Bantamweight), Nick Odore (Welterweight), Joseph Akhasamba (Heavyweight), David Anyim (Super Heavyweight)
JUDO: Joseph Momanyi (Half Lightweight), Michael Oduor (Middleweight), Donald Obwoge (Heavyweight)
SHOOTING: Shuaib Adam, Satiender Sehmi
WEIGHTLIFTING: Abdallah Juma (Featherweight)