It was fifty years ago today- October 20, 1968 at the Mexico City Olympics- in one of the most anticipated events in the ’68 games- the 1500 metre race- Kenya’s Kip Keino defeated decorated American long distance runner Jim Ryun by three seconds to win the gold. Ryun was the World Record holder and favorite but the Kenyan’s won the race on tactics. Keino’s fellow Kenyan Ben Jipcho went out in the lead right away with a fast first lap and sacrificed himself- Ryun known for his last lap kicks- was 30 yards behind Keino going into the last lap and was too far back to seriously mount a challenge.
A few notes- Kip Keino was suffering from severe abdominal pain during the games-it would later be diagnosed as a gall bladder infection. Nevertheless he was able to finish the 10,000, win the silver medal in the 5000 and gold in the 1500.
Jim Ryun is probably the most decorated track star never to win the gold medal. He would attempt a comeback in 1972 but tripped and fell in a qualifying event and didn’t make the final. He at one time held six world records. Ryun was the 1966 Sports Illustrated Sportsman Of The Year and was later named by ESPN as the greatest high school athlete of all time. He would also serve ten years in the US House of Representatives.
In the marathon race Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia who had won the silver medal earlier in the 10,000 metres won the gold with a time of 2 hours 20. 26 seconds. He would win the bronze in the 1972 Munich Games in the marathon.