Munich Olympic Games [Courtesy]

For 40 years, St Patrick’s School has produced top athletes

When 19-year-old  Mike Murei, a student at St Patrick’s High School, Iten, featured in the 400 meters hurdles race at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, he did not win a medal but made history. He was the first of the many ‘saints’ who would storm the world of athletics to bring home many medals and make Kenya a powerhouse in the discipline.

Sadly, everything that could go wrong during the Munich Olympics, held from September 5, went wrong. The games will be remembered for some unsporting activities. Eight terrorists, said to be Palestinian, stormed the Olympics village, killed two members of the Israeli team and took nine hostages. In the ensuing battle, all nine  hostages were later killed. Five of the terrorists and one policeman were also killed. In defiance of the terrorists, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) ordered that the competition should resume after a pause of 34 hours.

Despite this setback, the Munich Games were the largest yet, setting records in all categories with 195 events and 7,134 athletes from 121 national Olympic committees. Of the athletes, 6,075 were men.

During the historic event, Murei who was accompanied by other athletes Cosmas Murei and Mike Boit, appeared to have set the stage for the St Patrick’s High School which  consistently supplied athletes to the national team for  40 years, up to 2012, when its fortunes appeared to change.

Some of the most iconic world beaters from St Patrick’s are twins Kipkoech Cheruiyot (1500m) and Charles Cheruiyot (5000m), who flew the Kenyan flag high during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. They were Form Three students then.

Others who have made a name for themselves as well as the school are US-based Peter Rono (800m), Ibrahim Hussein and Kenyan-born Dane Wilson Kipketer, who represented the country in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988.

Steeplechaser Mathew Birir and Nickson Kiprotich (800m) bagged gold medals at the Barcelona 1992 Games while David Kiptoo won bronze in Atlanta in 1996. Kenyan-turned-Ugandan Abraham Chepkerwok and Nickson Chepseba became the last students from the school to compete at the Olympics in 2012 in London.

Kenya’s Olympic team for the Tokyo Games has not been named but St Patrick’s students are certainly crossing their fingers, looking up to the Greek gods of Mt Olympian, the origin of the Olympic Games, to treat her sons favourably. The games kick off on July 21 and will end on August 8.

Amos Kareithi

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