Ezekiel Kemboi’s 3,000 meters steeplechase lane violation in Rio, which led to his 3rd place finish result nullified, is one of the few times that Kenya has been on the news other than for dominating the event.
In 1999, Kenya’s Bernard Barmasai, American sprinter Marion Jones, then 800-meter record holder Wilson “the Dane” Kipketer of Denmark, and distance runner Gabriela Szabo of Romania were on course to share $1 million jackpot, which consisted of 50 kilograms of gold bars. The jackpot was available to athletes who won seven competitions.
During the 5th meet held in Zurich, Kenya’s Christopher “Jogoo” Koskei was leading in the race as the athletes approached the last bend. His countryman and jackpot contender Bermasai was trailing a few feet behind.
A man go to do what a man got to do. And Bermasai is such a man.
Sensing that Koskei was on the verge of victory, Bermasai used only the last available, yet dangerous card. He shouted towards Kosgei:
“Koskei, niachie. Niachie bwana.” (Insert some kale here too)
Koskei is a patriot. He did exactly that. He slowed down like a gentleman and allowed Bermasai to overtake him and win the race What a sigh of relief. All Kenyans were happy. We rally together as a country. Always. Right? Of importance was the fact that our son, our brother, remained in contention to share the 50kgs of pure gold!
Now, that is not the news. Guess what Bermasai did next! No, you are wrong. He did not get mursik at the airport. He did something stupid, yet honest!
After the race, when asked by a journalist how he managed to pip Koskei to victory, Bermasai smiled and answered:
“During the race I said to Koskei. ‘Koskei. Koskei leave it for me.’ and that’s why he slowed down.”
With that, Bernard Barmasai lost his shot at a share of the $1 million Golden League jackpot.