Ezekiel Kemboi Cheboi is a retired Kenyan multiple-time Olympic and World Championships gold medalist over the 3000 metres steeplechase. He is arguably one of the greatest middle distance runners in world history.
Kemboi is a legend in the game and boasts multiple medals from gold to bronze for his historic feats in the world of athletics.
He goes down in history as one of the most dominant Kenyan athletes of all time, and one of the few in the world to win multiple gold across various championships. He is the only multiple gold medalist at both the World Championpionships and Olympics.
In this article, WoK takes a look at Kemboi’s illustrious career.
Background & Education
Kemboi was born on May 25, 1982, in Matira near Kapsowar in Elgeyo Marakwet. He is the son of a farmer and the third of seven children.
Growing up, he had numerous interests as a young boy. He enjoyed playing football, was involved in drama and theatre, and DJ-ing at school parties.
The multiple-time world champion attended Kapsowar Boys Secondary School and sat for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 1999.
Despite being talented in various disciplines, Kemboi settled on athletics. He was inspired by three-time world champion Moses Kiptanui and developed an interest in the 3000-metre steeplechase.
A talented young boy, Ezekiel was discovered by 1988 Olympic 800m gold medallist Paul Ereng who introduced him to world-class training equipment in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.
Kemboi tasted his first glory at the Africa Junior Championships in 2001 where he won despite falling down. He later competed in the 2002 Commonwealth Games where he finished in second place behind Kenyan compatriot Stephen Cherono. Later in 2002, he competed in the Africa Athletics Championships and finished fourth. However, he was awarded the bronze medal after Moroccan Brahim Boulami who had finished third was disqualified for doping.
His first taste of global recognition came at the 2003 World Championships in Paris, France when he won silver. Former Kenyan athlete Stephen Cherono now known as Saif Saeed Shaheen won Gold competing for Qatar.
Kemboi was back for world glory at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. He won gold at the championships ahead of fellow compatriots Brimin Kipruto and Paul Kipsiele Koech for a Kenyan sweep.
He won his second silver medal at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki. Shaheen (Stephen Cherono) won gold again. He won gold at the 2006 Commonwealth games in March 2006 and silver at the 2006 African Championships. He was, however, disqualified for illegal hurdling.
For a third time, Ezekiel bagged a silver medal at the World Championships in 2007, losing to Brimin Kipruto.
The athletics legend posted his worst international performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he finished 8th. He would later reveal that he suffered stomach pains during the race.
“Those are the kind of things we say to make the game a bit interesting. Kenya is home. I don’t have another.”
He erased the poor Olympic performance with a gold medal at the 2009 World Championships. He also won silver at the 2010 African Championships. That same year, he competed in road races in Italy and won the Corribianco race in Bianco. He won the 8.5-kilometre Amatrice Configo.
Kemboi won gold at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. He was back at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London where he won gold and treated the fans to a victory dance. he became only the second man in history to win two Olympic titles in the event, a feat previously achieved by Finland’s Volmari Iso-Hollo in 1932 and 1936.
Ezekiel followed up the London feat with a gold medal at the 2013 World Championships and a fourth consecutive gold at the 2015 World Championships. During the 2016 Olympics in Rio, he finished third and announced his retirement from the sport. He was later disqualified for stepping outside the track and his bronze medal revoked. After the decision, he came out of retirement and competed in the 2017 World Championships finishing in a disappointing 11th place.
Kemboi is a two-time Diamond League final winner.
He posted his personal best of 7:55:76 in the 3000-metre steeplechase at Stade Louis in Monaco in 2011.
Kemboi is married to Jane Kemboi and together have two sons. The family resides on their 50-acre farm near Moi’s Bridge in Uasin Gishu County.
Kemboi made his entry into the Kenyan political scene on Sunday, July 31, 2022, during an Azimio La Umoja – One Kenya Alliance coalition party campaign rally held at 64 Stadium in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.
The athletics legend endorsed the presidential bid of ODM Leader Raila Odinga, christening himself Ezekiel Kemboi Amollo.