Julius Kariuki - Kenya - Steeplechase gold in Seoul

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 30 September 1988

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      Monday, 12 June 1961
      Nyahururu, Kenya.
  • Kenya
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Julius KARIUKI - Kenya - Steeplechase gold in Seoul


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.


He finished 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)




                                                     Gold at 1990 Commonwealth Games.


Julius Kariuki had just been another member of Kenya's all-conquering steeplechasing stable before he emerged in 1988 to win the Olympic gold medal in Seoul. Kariuki continued this world-class form into 1989, winning the steeplechase at the Bislett Games in Oslo (see photo above) on 1 July in 8min 14.39sec, and then recording his season's fastest time of 8min 12.18sec when he won at Koblenz on 23 August. In the World Student Games at Duisburg in August, Kariuki contested the 10000m rather than the steeplechase, winning in a championship best time of 28min 35.46sec. Competing in his more familiar steeplechase event at the World Cup held later that year in Barcelona, Julius retained the title that he had won four years earlier in Canberra. Kariuki's 1990 season got off to an early start at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland on 28 January.


Kenya only entered two athletes in the steeplechase, but they finished first and second in the final, with Kariuki easily defeating compatriot Joshua Kipkemboi in a Commonwealth Games record time of 8min 20.64sec. During the European season, Kariuki recorded a number of significant victories at Grand Prix events, and finished the season with the highest Grand Prix points tally in the steeplechase ahead of compatriot Patrick Sang. At the following year's World Championships in Tokyo, Julius finished fourth in the steeplechase behind his two Kenyan teammates who filled the first two places. Kariuki remained one of the world's top steeplechasers for several more years after that, but the dominance of Kenyan talent was so great, that he was never able again to gain representation on the national team to a major international championship. (Ron Casey)



1995     8:16.67     Bruxelles     25 AUG
1994     8:22.64     Saint-Denis     10 JUN
1993     8:13.38     Zürich     04 AUG
1991     8:16.81     Tokyo 31 AUG
1988     8:05.51     Seoul 30 SEP
1984     8:17.47     Los Angeles  10 AUG