Samson Kitur is easily the best sprinter Kenya has ever produced. His record in the 400 metres is nothing short of spectacular by any standards. It includes a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics, two bronze medals at the 1993 World Championships and gold medals at the All African games in 1991 and again in 1995.
Kitur was born on February 25 1966 in Moiben, Uasin Gishu district. His elder brothers were also Olympic calibre athletes. David Kitur represented Kenya at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics in 400m. Simon Kitur represented Kenya at the same Olympics in the 400m hurdles.
He first appeared on the scene in 1986 as a promising 20 year old. A series of superb performances at local meets prompted the local dailies to proclaim him as the next big thing in Kenyan sprinting. Still he did not qualify for the 4th All Africa games. Ahead of him were a talented crop of top class runners like
David Kitur, John Anzrah and Elkana Nyangau. But the promising Kitur could not be stopped by. The fact that two of his older brothers had left a significant footprint in the Kenya athletics scene
made it even more likely that he would fulfill his promise. And he did not disappoint
By 1991, Kitur had already established himself as the premier one lap runner in Africa. At the 5th All Africa games in Cairo, Egypt, Kitur won the 400m, beating the much fancied Sunday Bada of Nigeria. He also anchored the Kenya team to win gold in the 4 X 400m.
Samson Kitur at the 1992 Olympics
A year later at the Olympics in Barcelona, Kitur announced himself to the world when he won the bronze medal in the 400m. It had been 20 years since a Kenyan won a sprint medal at the Olympics. It was quite a stellar performance. At the final bend, Kitur was way back in 7th place and looked certain to finish
way out of the medal bracket. However he ran a storming final 50m to finish third behind Americans Quincy Watts and Harry Butch Reynolds. And he did it in a new Kenya record time of 44.18
Samson Kitur at the 1993 World Championships
At the 1993 World championships, Kitur repeated the feat again, once again finishing with a bronze medal. Kitur now had a reputation all over the athletics world for finishing his races like a freigh train while other runners were tiring. He was indeed an endurance sprinter.
But it was in the 4 X 400m of the 1993 world championships that Kitur had his most memorable performance. Kenya had placed an unprecedented 3 runners in the 400m finals, so much was expected from the relay team. However in the 4 X 400m finals, by the time Kitur received the baton to run the final leg, Kenya was in 6th place and it looked like there was no chance for a medal. However, Kitur ran
a storming final leg to take Kenya from sixth position to second place and a silver medal. It was a jaw dropping feat as Kitur blew past other world class runners.
Below is a video of Kitur’s performance at the 1993 world championships 4 X 400m relay. Scroll to the 7:28 mark of the video. Notice that Kitur receives the baton in 6th position but runs a stormer of a final leg to take Kenya to second position.
The German whom Kitur passed in the last 50 metres is Thomas Schoenlebe, the legendary sprinter who set the European 400m record and still holds the record as of 2014.
The Legacy of Samson Kitur
Come 1995, Kitur once again won gold at the 6th All Africa games in Harare in time of 44.36.As of July 2014, Kitur still holds the Kenya record in the 400m at 44.18. It is the 3rd fastest time by an African, only behind Gary Kikaya of DRC (44.10) and Innocent Egbunike of Nigeria (44.17). What is most impressive about this time is that it is faster than any Jamaican or European has ever run. Quite an achievement considering that the continent of Europe has athletics powers like Germany, France and Britain.
Sadly Samson Kitur died suddenly after a short illness in 2003 at his home in Eldoret
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