Ronald Kwemoi
Caption for the landscape image:

5,000m Olympic gold: Inside Kenya’s plan to end 36-year drought

Scroll down to read the article

Ronald Kwemoi (right) trains with fellow athletes at Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County on Tuesday. He will compete in the 5,000m race at the Paris Olympic Games.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Since the inception of the Olympics in 1912, Kenya has surprisingly won only one gold medal in the men's 5,000m at the Summer Games.

This feat was achieved by John Ngugi during the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.

The legendary Kipchoge Keino and Naftali Temu bagged silver and bronze medals in the race at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Paul Bitok won silver at the 1992 edition in Barcelona, Spain, before repeating the same feat at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games in the USA.

At the 2004 spectacle in Athens, Kenya settled for a bronze medal through Eliud Kipchoge, who later improved his performance with a silver medal four years later in Beijing, with compatriot Edwin Soi winning the bronze medal. Briton Mo Farah broke Kenyan hearts at the 2012 Games in London with gold, as Thomas Longiswa won another bronze for Kenya.

Farah defended his title at the 2016 Rio Games, with Kenyan-born American Paul Chelimo bagging silver and Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet winning bronze.

The script would continue at the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics held in 2021, as Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei, Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed and USA’s Paul Chelimo made it to the podium in that order.

With three weeks until this year's Olympics in Paris, Kenya hopes to end that dismal record and win that elusive gold. The athletes charged with the herculean task are Ronald Kwemoi, who won the Kenyan Olympic trials last month, World 5,000m silver medallist, Jacob Krop, and Edwin Kurgat.

Will the trio end the Ugandan and Ethiopian dominance in the 12-and-a-half lap race? Ngugi reckons that it is possible with adequate preparations.

“I think an athlete needs to understand his or her weakness and for the 5,000m race, the key is how you attack the race. If you are a good sprinter, then you can hang on with the leading group, but that hasn’t been working for Kenyans in the past and there is a need to change tact,” said Ngugi.

“The race has become more competitive and if Kenyans want to win a medal, they have to run as a team and work on their finishing kick, because that is where we are losing medals as a country,” said Ngugi.

He added that the selected coaches should sit with the athletes, plan well for the race, and have a training programme geared towards excelling in Paris.

Ethiopia's Hagos Gebrhiwet has the fastest time (12 minutes and 39.73) over the distance this season, with compatriot Yomif Kejelcha second with 12:38.95, and Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo is third with 12:40.96. Kurgat is the best ranked Kenyan at positio n 25 with a season’s best of 12:57.52.