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Noah Ngeny - Kenya - Olympic gold at 1500 metres

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 22 August 2000

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      Thursday, 02 November 1978
      Uasin Gishu District, Kenya.
  • Kenya Prostate cancer charity

Noah NGENY - Kenya - Olympic gold at 1500 metres


The world may have thought Hicham El Guerrouj was unbeatable over 1500m but Noah Ngeny didn't. Noah, hitherto, had always viewed the back of the Moroccan's vest at the finish of every important race they had contested but this time things would be different. The semifinals gave no clues as to what might happen in the final. Noah won his comfortably enough but the time was meaningless. Indeed the second semi won by Hicham (3m 37.60) was so much quicker that the first seven finishers all bettered Noah's winning time of 3min. 39.29secs. The two semifinals, as so often happens, just gave the favourites a high quality training run whilst the lesser mortals scrambled for places behind them.


The final was expected to be a two horse race and that is how events turned out. After the intial skirmishes were over Hicham took up the pacesetting and at the bell was leading, followed by Noah a couple of paces behind him. This continued for most of the final lap but the World Champion was not able to shake off the twenty-two year old Kenyan. With 70m. to go Noah made his move. He closed the gap and as the two battled to the finish he took the lead with 15m. to go and there he stayed. He crossed the line in 3min. 32.07sec.- a new Olympic record, beating Sebastian Coe's 1984 time of 3min. 32.53sec. second came Hicham in 3min. 32.32secs. with Bernard Lagat 3rd. in 32.44 secs. Noah Ngeny thus became the third Kenyan to win the 1500m. crown following Kip Keino (1968) and Peter Rono (1988). He said afterwards: "I did not beat Hicham tonight, I won the gold". Hicham, for his part, was understandably too upset to say much at all for quite some time- remember he had fallen in Atlanta, but once he had recovered from the "shock" defeat he gave credit to a worthy champion. (GH).


The year 2000 was the highlight of Ngeny's running career. He posted career bests of 1:44.49 for 800m  (28 July 2000 in Oslo) and 3:28.12 for 1500 m (at the Weltklasse Zürich on 11 August 2000), en route to his Olympic triumph (29 September 2000). 

Ngeny did not follow up his 2000 success, partly due to a debilitating car accident and retired in 2006.

He never competed in a major championship after 2000.




Silver medal at 1999 World Championships.  Photo 22nd August 1999. G. Herringshaw. ©


Noah Ngeny is an athlete who will bounch back regardless of the circumstances, take 1996 for example, when as a seventeen year old he was running at the World Junior Championships. He was tripped on the first lap of the 1500m. but got up and took the lead for three laps when with 200m. remaining he was tripped again. He still got up to finish, but not unexpectedly, he was unplaced. The next year he bounced back and set two World junior records, a one mile record of 3min. 50.41sec. on July 16th and 3min. 32.91sec. for the 1500m. in Monaco on August 16th (in ninth place!). Come 1998, still a teenager, he was competing against the best men in the world and although he did not feature in the Commonwealth Games he was learning his trade very effectively. He still had not yet broken the magic 3min. 30sec. barrier for the 1500m. (his season best was 3min. 30.34sec.) but he was now ranked the fourth fastest man in the world.


At the 1999 World Championships he made his great breakthrough, but first he set a few records. Running the mile in Rome on July 7th he passed the 1500m. mark in 3min. 28.6sec. to shave almost a second from Daniel Komen's Commonwealth record and then crossed three seconds ahead of Steve Cram's 1985 Commonwealth one mile record. His time for the four laps was 3min. 43.40sec. The only disappointment was a certain Hicham El Guerrouj was a few feet ahead of him, setting a new world record of 3min. 43.13sec. The pair then moved to Spain to contest the World Championships where the result was the same, Hicham won as he pleased in a new Championship Best Performance (3min. 27.65sec.) with Noah taking the silver medal in 3min. 28.73sec.- an official Commonwealth record. Next year their battle would continue in Sydney. (GH).