Filbert BAYI

Filbert Bayi - Tanzania - Steeplechase silver in Moscow

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 31 July 1980

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      Tuesday, 23 June 1953
      Karatu, Tanzania
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Filbert BAYI - Tanzania - Steeplechase silver in Moscow


Filbert Bayi's performances in his international debut at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, where he was eliminated in the heats of both the 3000m steeplechase and the 1500m, gave no hint of the incredible middle distance running talent that he would display in subsequent years. After Munich, not only did Bayi quickly improve, but he did so by adopting a daring front running strategy, which made him the most exciting drawcard at any track meet in which he competed. This tactic produced significant wins over 1500m at the African Games at Lagos in January 1973, where he defeated Kenyan legend Kip Keino, and in the World Games at Helsinki in June that year, where he recorded history's third fastest time of 3min 34.6sec. Sometimes his tactics backfired, as happened in a 1 mile race a few days later, where Bayi was caught near the finish by Ben Jipcho (Kenya), after at one stage holding a lead of nearly 80 metres.


Bayi's greatest performance was in the 1500m final at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch on 2 February 1974. In a superb display of front running, Bayi set an incredible pace, leading all the way to win in a new world record time of 3min 32.2 sec. It was the greatest 1500m race ever, with John Walker (New Zealand), also under the old world record, and bronze medallist Jipcho only 0.1sec outside it. On 17 May the following year, Bayi also claimed the 1 mile world record, when he registered a time of 3min 51.0sec at Kingston, Jamaica. Two weeks later, he won the memorial Emsley Carr mile  at Crystal Palace in 3min 55.5sec. The third placegetter on that occasion was Pole Bronislaw Malinowski, who Bayi would meet under much different circumstances five years later. (Ron Casey)


Filbert Bayi made an exciting impact at the 1974 Commonwealth Games when his daring front running tactics won him the 1500m gold medal in world record time from John Walker (New Zealand). Bayi also set a new 1 mile world record in 1975, but this record was broken by Walker three months later. The clash between these two champion athletes at the 1976 Montreal Olympics was thus eagerly anticipated, but Bayi was denied the opportunity of competing due to the Olympic boycott by the black African nations in protest over a New Zealand rugby tour to South Africa. Bayi's level of competitiveness was problematic anyway, as he had been laid low in 1976 by malarial attacks that would plague him for the remainder of his career. In the 1500m final at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Bayi adopted his usual front running tactics in the defence of his title, but this time he had to be content with the silver medal after Briton Dave Moorcroft passed him just before the finish.


Despite recording some good 1 mile performances during the 1980 North American indoor season, Bayi decided to compete in the 3000m steeplechase at the Moscow Olympics later that year. The favourite for the steeplechase was Poland's Bronislaw Malinowski, and Bayi had given a signal of his potential in the event by defeating Malinowski at Stockholm on 8 July. At Moscow, on 31 July, Bayi went out at an extremely fast pace, well under world record schedule. He built up a large gap over Malinowski, which the more experienced Pole gradually reduced, passing the tiring Bayi at the last water jump (see photo above). Totally exhausted, Bayi hung on gamely to finish in 8min 12.5sec to claim the silver medal. Bayi competed for several more seasons after that, but without any significant achievements. (Ron Casey)



800m 1:45.32 Christchurch 29 JAN 1974

1000m 2:18.1 Formia 08 MAY 1984

1500m 3:32.16 Christchurch 02 FEB 1974

One Mile 3:51.0 Kingston, JAM 17 MAY 1975

2000m 4:59.21 Schaan 17 SEP 1978

3000m 7:39.27 Oslo 01 JUL 1978

3000m Steeplechase 8:12.48 Moskva