The difference between a permanent niche in sporting history and
obscurity can sometimes be minute, and in the case of Samson Kimobwa it
amounted to a mere 0.3sec at Helsinki on 30 June 1977. Kimobwa was one
of several Kenyan athletes, which included the legendary Henry Rono, who
attended Washington State University in the late 1970's. Kimobwa had
little form to speak of prior to 1977, and even his performances in the
early part of that season gave no inkling of the surprise he produced at
the World Games in Helsinki on 30 June. Competing against a quality
field in the 10,000m, Kimobwa was setting a reasonable pace in the early
stages, but only the wildest speculators would have been suggesting a
world record at that point. Indeed, after 3km, Kimobwa was 5.9sec
behind the pace set by David Bedford (Great Britain) during his 27min
30.5sec world record set in 1973.
After another three kilometres all
covered in around 2min 47sec each, Kimobwa was 9.7sec behind Bedford's
schedule. Samson then proceeded to tear the race apart, by blitzing the
7th and 8th kilometres in 2min 41.7sec and 2min 43.1sec respectively.
This placed him 1.5sec ahead of Bedford's pace at 8km, and, although he
slowed in the final kilometre, he finished in 27min 30.5sec, breaking
Bedford's world record by 0.3sec. Kimobwa's record led to a flood of
invitations from meet directors all over Europe, most of which he
accepted, including competing in the 5000m at the British AAA
Championships in London (Crystal Palace) on 23 July (see photo above),
where he finished third.
Although he ran another 10000m in 27min 37sec
only three days after Helsinki, his performances deteriorated gradually
from that point. Most attributed his demise to over-racing, and his
subsequent athletic achievements came nowhere near his world record
performance. (Ron Casey)
After his running career, he became a schoolteacher and coached athletes like Ismael Kirui and Boaz Cheboiywo.
Kimobwa died aged 57 in a Nairobi hospital on Wednesday 16th. January 2013, after being admitted the previous day with a stomach ailment.