TOKYO, Japan -- Former UTEP sprinter and college national champion Emmanuel Korir took home the gold medal in the 800 meters race Wednesday morning while representing Kenya in the Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s amazing. I mean, I’m so happy and grateful, this is a big achievement,” Korir told Olympics.com. “I’ve been praying and hoping to maybe one day have a medal and today I have it and I’m so thankful.”
He led a Kenyan one-two finish in the race. Kenya has claimed this title at every Olympics since Beijing 2008.
Korir pushed his way past Australia’s Peter Bol on the last turn and surged home to win in 1 minute, 45.06 seconds. It was Kenya’s fourth straight victory in the 800 at the Olympics.
Korir's teammate Ferguson Rotich took silver with a late kick to overtake Poland’s Patryk Dobek, who held on for bronze ahead of Bol.
World-record holder David Rudisha won the last two Olympic gold medals in the 800 but he didn’t make Kenya’s team this year because of long-term injury problems. Clayton Murphy of the United States, the bronze medalist in 2016, finished last.
Korir has achieved greatness in the 800 meters before, having won the indoor (1:47.48) and outdoor (1:45.03) NCAA championships in the 800 meter run with UTEP in 2017.
“This is a great day for Emmanuel, El Paso, the UTEP track and field program and Kenya as a country,” UTEP track and field Coach Paul Ereng said. “Emmanuel is a very fast runner and the race was very slow. So, Emmanuel really had to run the last 400. In that kind of race, the fastest guy wins. Emmanuel had some challenges prior to the Olympics. He was in a car accident back in 2019 and then Covid kicked in in 2020, so he really didn’t have a lot of races from 2019 after the World Championships.”
Ereng, who coaches Korir, won gold in the 800m at the 1988 Games in Seoul, Korea.
Korir became just the third Miner and first since 1984 to win a gold medal in track and field at the Olympics. He’s also the 16th overall former UTEP track and field student-athlete to medal at The Games.
Korir joins Bob Beamon (1968, long jump) and Ria Stalman (1984, discus) as UTEP track’s gold medal recipients. Prior to Korir, the last Miners to medal were Blessing Okagbare (long jump), Osayomi Oludamola (4x100m relay) and Halimat Ismaila (4x100m relay) at the 2008 Games in Beijing.
(The Associated Press and UTEP Athletics contributed to this report.)