Kenya at the Olympics – The 5,000m & 10,000 Olympic Games Finals
Olympics 5,000ms & 10,000m – Hard Race to Call
Both the 5,000 and 10,000m races at the Olympic are something of grey areas in athletic circles. Indeed, only two men have ever successfully defended their titles: Lasse Virén of Finland in 1972, 76 and Britain’s Mo Farah in 2012, 16. Arguably the most competitive long-distance event at the Olympics, Kenya has only ever claimed gold once, when John Ngugi won it at the 1988 Seoul Games.
Unknown to many, Finland has been the second most successful nation at the event, claiming gold in 1924, 28, 32, 36, 72 and 76 as well 5 silver and 2 bronze medals. Ethiopia is the most successful nation in the event, having claimed 6 gold medals and 15 medals in total. Kenya is third on the all-time 5,000m medal table with 1 gold, 4 silvers and 4 bronze. That has been in the aftermath of some of the greatest distance runners the world has yet to offer, which makes it a difficult event to muster and create new tactics, and increasingly unpopular for many fans. Kenya’s commitment to athletic rectitude has allowed it to put in noteworthy performances – Kipchoge Keino (Silver, Mexico City, 1968), Paul Bitok (Silver 1992, 1996), Eliud Kipchoge (Silver, Beijing, 2008), Naftali Temu (Bronze, Mexico City, 1968), Eliud Kipchoge (Bronze, Athens, 2004), Edwin Soi (Bronze, Beijing, 2008), and lately Thomas Longosiwa (Bronze, London, 2012).
Kenya’s Women Team at the 5,000m Event
The women 5,000m event at the Olympics was a late entrant, waiting nearly 72 since the men’s event was first run at the 1912 Stockholm Games. Not that the global leadership of the Olympics Games has been altogether without conflict, even in the hard years of global calamity, but the introduction of an event at the Olympics requires a considerable level of uptake and competitiveness. Initially introduced at the 1984 Los Angeles Games in an event run as a 3,000m race, until 1996, when the distance was extended to match the men’s event. From one end to the other, the Kenyan women have been involved in a mighty clash with the Ethiopians, who are so far the most successful nation at the event with three golds (2004, 08, 12) and five silvers (2000, 04, 08, 12, 16). Unlike most long-distances events, this has been dominated by two Ethiopian bigwigs, engaged in a formidable exchange about who takes gold. Meseret Defar clinched gold in Athens, 2004, in an event where Tirunesh Dibaba had to settle for Bronze. It turned out contrariwise at the 2008 Beijing Game – Dibaba taking gold, and, as you guessed it, the opposite way at London Games in 2012. Synchronically, the Kenyan have picked up four silvers – Pauline Konga (Atlanta, 1996), Isabella Ochichi (Athens, 2004), Vivian Cheruiyot (London, 2012) and Hellen Obiri (Rio, 2016). At Rio, Vivian Cheruiyot went one better to bag the gold for Kenya, the result being an unhappy compromise for the Ethiopians who landed bronze.
The 10,000m Olympic Medals
From a distance, the all-time medal table for the 5,000m and 10,000m appear self same in the matters of the countries dominating the event. The chances of defending titles, in the men’s event, have been comparatively betters, with six champions successfully defending their titles: Paavo Nurmi of Finland (1920, 28), Emil Zátopek of Czechoslovakia (1948, 52), Lasse Virén of Finland (1972, 76), Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia (1996, 2000), Kenenisa Bekele (2004, 08) and U.K’s Mo Farah (2012, 16). As it happens, a large number of athletes at the 5,000m also incline to compete in the 10,000m, if they can somehow qualify for both events. Ethiopia, the most successful nation at the 10,000m, with ten gold medals among a total of 24 medals, also holds the best times for both men and women, set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2016 Rio Olympics by Kenenisa Bekele for the men’s events (27:01.17) and Almaz Ayana recording the women’s best time of 29:17.45 minutes. Finland is the second successful country with six gold medals among a total of thirteen, bagging its latest gold in 1976. Kenya, the third most successful nation at the Olympics 10,000m event, bagged its first and only gold so far – which was also Kenya’s first ever gold at the Olympics – in 1968. It was a nailbiter neck to-neck dash to the finish, where Naftaly Tamu somehow edged off Mamo Wolde. It is, perhaps, the herculean battle between Gebrselassie of Ethiopia and Paul Tergat at the 1996 and 2000 Games that will forever be etched in the minds of Kenyans. Pitted as one of the heroic distance duels, between two of Africa’s legendary runners, there was little that separated the two, and both fought hard, but Gebrselassie would earn gold in both events.
Before the epic battle in 2000, Gebrselassie had two years earlier reclaimed his World Record from Tergat. In turn, Tergat became the 6th Kenyan to hold the 10,000m World Record when he recorded 26:27.85 on August 22, 1997 in Brussels, breaking Gebrselassie’s previous time of 26:31.32. Then, Gebrselassie would clock 26:22.75 on June 1, 1998 in Hengelo, Netherlands, to erase Tergat’s WR. A record that would stand until June 8, 2004 when fellow countryman Kenenisa Bekele broke it with a stunning time of 26:20.31.
- Kenya at the Olympics – An Overview and All-time Medal Table
- 11 Kenyan Gold Medals in the 3,000m Olympic Steeplechase
- Kenya’s Olympic Marathon History – A Long Time in the Waiting
- Kenya’s Performance in the Olympic 5,000m & 10,000m Event
- Kenya’s Heroes and Heroines in the 800m Olympic Events