Kenya has a long history of producing champion 3000m steeplechasers, and
one of the best of these was Julius Kariuki. His athletic career
started slowly, and even at 22, his best recorded athletic performance
was only 3min 52.8sec over 1500m. Julius made tremendous progress
during 1984, first gaining selection in the Kenyan Olympic team, and
then finishing 7th in the steeplechase at the Los Angeles Olympic Games.
The following year, Kariuki won the steeplechase at the African
Championships in Cairo in 8min 20.74sec, and then followed that up with a
victory in a slow race at the World Cup in Canberra, outsprinting the
opposition to win in 8min 39.51sec. Kariuki took a break from the
steeplechase in 1987 to work on his speed on the track.
sixth in the 3000m at the World Indoor Championships in Indianapolis in
March and recorded a seasonal best of 3min 38.89sec over 1500m in May.
Julius returned to the steeplechase in 1988, with wins at Helsinki in
8min 16.17sec on 30 June, and at London in 8min 15.71sec eight days
later. This form gained Kariuki a place on the Kenyan Olympic team to
compete in Seoul, although he was very much looked upon as the
third-string Kenyan runner, as compatriots Peter Koech and Patrick Sang
had recorded the fastest two times for the year prior to the Olympics.
The 3000m steeplechase final in Seoul, held on 30 September, was taken
out at a terrific pace by 1987 world champion Francesco Panetta (Italy).
With a kilometre to go, Kariuki and Koech broke clear, and a lap
later, Kariuki sped away from his more experienced teammate, and went on
to win the gold medal (see photo above) in 8min 05.51sec, the second fastest time ever run for the event behind Henry Rono's world record. (Ron Casey)