Before Nicholas Bett and Tumuti, there was Daniel Kimaiyo

Two Kenyan hurdlers, Boniface Mucheru Tumuti and Nicholas Bett have recently captured the imagination of athletics fans all over the world. Bett won the gold medal at the 2015 world athletics championships and in the process set a new Kenya record at 47.79. A year later, Tumuti won the silver record at the Rio Olympics and lowered the Kenya record to 47.78.

But Bett and Tumuti are not Kenya’s first set of world class hurdlers. Before them, there was Daniel Kimaiyo who was a dominant figure in the late 1970s. Kimaiyo was All Africa games champion in 1978. In that final, he beat Ugandan legend John Akii Bua who had been an Olympic gold medalist years earlier. And in 1979 he won the gold medal in the Africa Athletics championships.

But his greatest achievement came when he won the gold medal at the 1978 commonwealth games. In the process he beat Gary Pascoe of England who had been European and Commonwealth games champion in 1984

Race Video

Kimaiyo was also an excellent relay runner. He won gold medals with the Kenya 4 X 400m team at the 1978 All Africa games, 1978 Commonwealth games and 1979 Africa athletics championships. As such he left each of these tournaments with two gold medals. In the 1978 Commonwealth games final, he received the baton from Washington Njiri, and ran a stormer of a second leg, thus extending the lead that had been built by Njiri. Bill Koskei who ran the tthird leg, was impeded by a British runner and this fell back to third place before passing the baton to Joel Ngetich. It was a photo finish but The Brits were disqualified for impeding Kenya who were then awarded gold

Race Video

Other Kenyan 400m Hurdlers
Eric Keter was another excellent Kenyan hurdler. He won the gold medal at the 1991 All Africa games and 1993 African championships. He also reached the finals of the world athletics championships in 1991 and 1993.

Gideon Yego was a silver medalist at the 1990 Commonwealth games in the 400m hurldes. Three years earlier at the 1987 All Africa games, he won a silver medal in the 110 metres hurdles.

Shem Ochako, a product of Cardinal Otunga Mosocho, won a silver medal in the 400m hurdles at the 1987 All Africa games.

At the 1994 Commonwealth games, Gideon Biwott and Barnaba Kinyor won silver and bronze medals respectively, finishing behind Zambian legend Samuel Matete.

After this, Kenya went through a dry period as Athletics Kenya began a misguided policy to disregard the sprints and focus only on distance events. Luckily the policy seems to have been reversed as Kenyan sprinting is re-emerging from the doldrums.

In 2016, in addition to Bett and Tumuti, Kenya also has Haron Koech who is another up and coming hurdler. He on the bronze medal at the 2016 African athletics championships and reached the Olympic finals in 2016.

The 400m hurdles is very similar to the 800m in terms of its endurance requirements. Since Kenya has produced numerous world class 800m runners, it stands to reason that the country would also produce excellent 400m hurdlers. What impedes Kenyan hurdlers is the lack of proper technical guidance.

 


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