Kenyan legend Ouko member of 1972 Munich Olympics takes final sprint

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019 00:00 |
Robert Ouko sprints to victory during a past competition in the 1970s. Photo/AGENCIES

Derek Otieno

Tributes yesterday flowed after the death of Olympiad Robert Gwaro Ouko in Nairobi.

The 1972 Munich Olympic 4×400m relay champion died at the age of 70 at his home in Ngong on Sunday night after a long illness.

He had been in and out of hospital for the last few years before succumbing on Sunday after several failed attempts to get assistance from the government, raising questions over the role of the National Heroes Council on the plight of many of the country’s legends.

Legendary athlete Nyandika Maiyoro also passed on early this year after succumbing to pneumonia as he could not raise money to get proper treatment.

Ouko was part of the quartet of Charles Asati, Hezekiah Nyamao and Julius Sang that won the gold at the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, Germany during one of the Olympic Movement’s dark year when a group of Palestinian extremists attacked Israeli sportsmen.

His demise now leaves two surviving members of that famous quartet,  Asati and Nyamao with Sang having died in April 2004.

That was the first gold medal the country won in the short distance races and has remained elusive to the runners since. Ouko won two gold medals at the 1970 British Commonwealth Games, first in the 800m race and then as a member of the Kenyan 4×400m relay team.

At the same year, he was also a member of a Kenyan 4x880 yards relay team, which set the then new world record of 7:11.6.

At the 1972 Munich Olympics, Ouko was fifth in 800m and ran the third leg in the gold medal winning Kenyan 4×400m relay team.

“It’s sad that we have been neglected and Robert died suffering. 

We thank God each morning that we wake up,” said 73-year-old Asati yesterday.

National Olympics Committee of Kenya (NOCK) also mourned Ouko, describing him as a legend in the Olympic Movement in Kenya. “He distinguished himself as a great athlete and later on a great administrator. He indeed exemplified the qualities we all hope our athletes can strive to and achieve,” NOCK said in a statement. It added: “We hope that the athletes currently wearing national colours in the African Games can honour him with exemplary performances and keep the spirit of great athleticism burning.”

After his athletics career, Ouko served the sport he loved as secretary general in the defunct Kenya Amateur Athletic Association (KAAA).

He later served in various capacities within the sport, including secretary and chairman of the Nairobi branch of the defunct athletics body and was the founder member of the country’s Olympians movement.

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