- 13 Oct 1968
- Mexico 1968
Electric Temu digs deep to win 10,000m
Like his countryman Kip Keino, Kenya's Naftali Temu came to Mexico intent on pursuing a punishing schedule of three events. In Temu's case, it couldn't have been harder – he plumped for the 10,000m, 5,000m and marathon, despite the heat and altitude of Mexico City.
Temu had made his Olympic debut four years earlier when he finished a distant 49th in the marathon. Now, though, he was a more prepared, focused and fitter athlete.
First up was the 10,000m, an exhausting race dominated by athletes from high-altitude countries.
It was an arduous event, with a a total of eleven different men holding the lead during the first 8,000m, but the exhausting race was whittling down the field.
With six laps still to run, a couple of runners had to be carried away from the track on stretchers to be treated by doctors. Then, with just over a kilometre still to go, Keino dropped out, suffering from stomach cramps, while the legendarily tough Australian runner Ron Clarke was battling to keep going.
With two laps remaining though, Clarke was still in contention, along with Temu, Momo Wolde and Mohamed Gammoudi. Clarke slipped off the pace in the penultimate lap, Gammoudi was off the pace as they entered the final circuit. From then, it was Wolde against Temu.
That final lap was electric. Wolde made what looked like a decisive move, shooting past his rival just after the bell and opening up a gap of four or five metres. But Temu responded with pure strength and determination. He caught Wolde with 50 metres left in the race and won by 0.6secs. It had been a staggering, exhausting race, symbolised by Clarke – who crossed the line to finish sixth, promptly collapsed and was unconscious for ten minutes.
It was to be the greatest victory of Temu's career. He took bronze in the 10,000m and then finished 19th in the marathon, but his gold was special. It was Kenya's first gold medal in the Olympic Games, and the race marked the first time that African athletes had taken all the medals.