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.
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.