William "invoice" Koskei – Ugandan and Kenyan 400m Hurdles Champion
One of Africa’s best competitors on the short tracks (400 meters) with hurdles, he first raced nationally and internationally for neighboring Uganda before migrating east back to his native Kenya. From then on, he would continue to compete in the 400m hurdles and be part of the Kenya 4x400m relay team during the 1970s.
William “Bill” Koskei, born on December 28, 1947 in western Kenya, is still remembered as one of the largest in Uganda, Kenya and Africa’s 400 meter hurdles collectively. The slim Koskei was about 6’0 “.
It was at the East and Central African Championships (an annual event that primarily involves track and field stars from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia) that William Koskei first showed international prominence. In 1969, these regional championships were held in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Ugandan runner Koskei won gold in the 400m hurdles with a time of 51.4 seconds. In 1972, the same Championship held in the Tanzanian capital, Dar-es-Salaam, Koskei this time running through his native Kenya, he won again in the 400m hurdles with a time of 50.7 seconds. By then, Somalia and Ethiopia had enrolled their athletes in the championships. In 1977, at the same championships in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, William Koskei, now almost 30 years old, won gold again in the 400m hurdles, after hitting the ribbon in 50.6 seconds. . Koskei showed that he had maintained stability in his career as an athlete.
Charles Kipkemboi Yego had won in the same event at the East and Central African Championships at the venue in Kenya’s capital Nairobi in 1970, winning in a time of 50 seconds. John Akii-Bua of Uganda had won in the 110m hurdles final at the same Championships held in Kampala in 1969. With the influence of Ugandan national track coach Malcolm Arnold of the United Kingdom, Akii-Bua became convinced that he would reap more rewards as a 400 meter hurdles runner.
It is in his previous adopted country, Uganda, that William Koskei is remembered for his most prestigious international individual stage: the silver medal he won in the 400m hurdles at the British Commonwealth Games held in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 16 to July 25, 1970. Racing for Uganda, Koskei won in the third heat of the first round, in a time of 51.37 seconds. Then came the semifinals. Koskei won comfortably in 51.39 seconds, while Kenya’s Charles Kipkemboi Yego finished second in this semi-final in 51.73 seconds. In the final, England’s John Sherwood won in 50.03 seconds, Koskei was second in 50.15 seconds, Kenyan Charles Kipkemboi Yego was third in 50.19. Upcoming Ugandan superstar and future Gold Olympian John Akii-Bua struggled with a strained back and hernia, was behind in the final 100 meters, but still ran fast to finish fourth in 51.14 seconds.
In 1970, Bill Koskei of Uganda ranked seventh among the men’s 400m hurdles runners in the All-Time World Rankings, behind hurdles 1 through 7 respectively: Jean-Claude Nallet (France), Ralph Mann (USA), Wayne Collett (USA), Ari Salin (Finland), John Sherwood (Great Britain) and Charles Kipkemboi Yego (Kenya). 1970 would be the only year that Koskei would rank in the world’s top ten among the all-time world rankings. However, “Track and Field New” ranked Kenya’s Koskei 10th in the world in 1973 and 9th in 1974.
The performance of Commonwealth Games silver medalist William Koskei at the Summer Olympics held in Munich, West Germany, from August 26, 1972 to September 11, 1972, was highly anticipated. Although he was not in the top ten 400m hurdles in the world in 1972 or even 1972, Koskei was still regarded as an Olympic medal hopeful. Koskei, along with John Akii-Bua of Uganda, reigned as Africa’s leading hurdles. The August 28, 1972 issue of “Sports Illustrated” listed unsurprisingly that American Ralph Mann would win Olympic gold, Bill Koskei would come second and John Akii-Bua of Uganda would win the bronze medal.
The 1971-72 Australian Open Championships in Athletics was held March 22-26, 1972 at Perry Lakes Stadium, Perth, Western Australia. In the second round of the 400m hurdles on March 25, Bill Koskei took second place behind Gary Knoke of New South Wales, Australia, in a relatively slow 52.2 seconds. The final involved much more speed. Gary Knoke won in 49.3 seconds, Bill Koskei was second in 49.4 seconds and Bruce Fields of Australia’s Victoria Territory was third in a time of 49.9 seconds.
In July 1971 at Durham in North Carolina, Akii-Bua had won on the hurdles in the Africa vs. USA Akii-Bua proved it was no fluke by clearly beating African rival Koskei, alongside the rest of the African and American contingent, and winning in an impressive personal best of 49.05 seconds. The American and No. 1 ranking champion Ralph Mann did not show up. It competed in Europe.
At the 1972 Olympics, William Koskei, although he raced in favorable lane 4, was disappointingly eliminated in the first round. His fourth place in Heat 2, in a time of 50.58 seconds, would not carry him to the next round. It was practically Koskei’s last chance at the Olympics, as the next two, held in Montreal (1976) and Moscow (1980), were boycotted by Kenya and many other nations. It was 1972 when Koskei was in his prime, the year he achieved a personal best of 49 seconds. At the 1972 Olympics, John Akii-Bua of Uganda would win in a world record of 47.82 seconds, becoming the first man to officially run the 400 meters hurdles in less than 48 seconds. Ralph Mann won silver several meters away, and former Olympic champion David Hemery of Great Britain ran a very close third.
The second All-Africa Games were held from January 7 to 18, 1973 in Lagos, the Nigerian capital. Bill Koskei made it to the men’s 400m hurdles final. Also in the final line-up was recently crowned Olympic gold medalist and world record holder and Koskei’s nemesis, Uganda’s John Akii-Bua, who was expected to win. Akii-Bua won easily, but the amazing thing is that Akii-Bua won in a very fast time of 48.54s, at that time one of the best times ever played in the hurdle race, and without a doubt the best time on African soil. Koskei took silver, running nearly two full seconds (50.22s) behind Akii-Bua, and a photographic finish ahead of bronze medalist Silver Ayoo (50.25s) from Uganda. Akii-Bua would soon comment that, although he was comfortably ahead of the peloton, as he approached the final turn of the race, a glimpse of Nigerian President General Yakubu Gowon, visibly decked out in military and revered at the top of the stands, watching and cheering, she propelled him to accelerate.
The next major international challenge would involve Koskei of Kenya in the British Commonwealth Games held in Christchurch in New Zealand from January 24 to February 2, 1974. In the end, William Koskei won a medal at these Commonwealth Games, such as it had for four years. earlier. England’s Alan Pascoe won in 48.83 seconds, Australia’s Bruce Field came in second in 49.32 seconds and Koskei won bronze when he came in a photo and finished third in 49.34 seconds.
At these 1974 Commonwealth Games, the final of the 4x400m relay saw legendary Olympic gold medalist Charles Asati depart for Kenya, handing the baton over to Francis Musyoki, who in turn would hand it over to Bill Koskei. Koskei passed the baton to legendary Olympic relay medalist Julius Sang, who took gold for the Kenya relay team with an overall finish of 3 minutes 4.43 seconds.
In the Victory Championship held in 1975 at Olympic Park, in the 400m hurdles, Koskei lost to third place (50.8 seconds) in the Finals to Alan Pascoe (50.4 seconds) of England, Bruce Field (50 , 6 seconds) from Australia. Koskei’s performance in the 400-meter hurdles was declining. Some more international performances from Koskei, in the 400m hurdles, were internationally mediocre.
The next British Commonwealth Games were held in 1978, Canada on the territory of Alberta, in the city of Edmonton from August 3 to 12, 1978. Again, Bill Koskei participated in the Kenyan gold medal, and his co -Winning teams from Kenya included Washington Njiri, Daniel Kimaiyo and Joel Ngetich. The winning time at Edmonton was 3.03.54. Kenya had notably won successively in the men’s 4x400m relays over the 12 years, in three consecutive Commonwealth Games. Notably, Africa’s most populous nation and home to many world-class athletes boycotted the Games over political complaints about participants affiliated with apartheid affiliation in South Africa. The elderly Koskei, this time in 1978, did not win any medals in the 400-meter hurdles, but his compatriot Daniel Kimaiyo won gold for Kenya, Kenya’s first gold at the event. William Koskei would soon withdraw his skewers with a degree of satisfaction. He had raced with dedication for two nations and would retire from competing with two British Commonwealth gold medals, one silver and one bronze. William “Bill” Koskei will forever go down in history as a dedicated national champion who not only commendably represented two African nations, but also won gold, silver and bronze medals in the British Commonwealth and also at the African Games. But that was in the 1970s it was ranked as one of the best 400m hurdles in the world.