Today we pay tribute to
John Ngugi Kamau (born 10 May 1962), is a former Kenyan long-distance runner, often called one
of the greatestcross country runners of all time and winner of the 5000 metres at the 1988 Summer
Born in Kigumo, Muranga District, John Ngugi’s earliest international successes came at the World
Cross Country Championships, where he won a record four consecutive titles between 1986 and
1989 and five titles overall.
Ngugi established himself as a track runner when he won his heat of the 5000 m at the 1987 World
Championships inRome. In the final, Ngugi took the lead during the second kilometre, but despite his
front running tactics, he was outsprinted in the finish, finishing in a disappointing twelfth place. He
won 5000 metres race in the 1987 All-Africa Games held in Kenya.
At the Seoul Olympic Games, Ngugi took the lead after the kilometre and achieved a 50 m lead.
Although his lead was reduced when the expected sprints came in the last lap, Ngugi still managed
to win by 30 metres.
At the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand, Ngugi tried exactly the same tactics
which had won him the Olympic gold medal. Although he tripped and fell after only two laps and lost
35 m on the rest of the field, he managed to catch the leading group and establish a gap of 40 m at
the bell. But in this time, that wasn’t enough, as Andrew Lloyd from Australia won by a mere
0.08 seconds in an incredible finishing burst.
Ngugi returned in 1992 to capture the World Cross Country title for the fifth time. That was his final
appearance at a major international championships before his retirement.
In 1993 Ngugi refused to take an out-of-competition drug test, and he then received a four-year
suspension for the infraction. He contested the ruling, spending $80,000 of his own money to fight
his case in Monaco. His ban was later reduced as it was judged that the Kenya Athletics
Federation had not followed its duty of educating its athletes about out-of-competition testing and
that Ngugi had a limited education. However, the long battle to contest the decision brought an end
to his running career as his physical fitness had heavily declined over the period.