Updated 1 May 2008
Julius BUNGEI, Kenya (400m Hurdles)
Born 16 June, 1984, Kapsabet, Nandi
Height: 175cm (5' 9"); Weight: 59.2kg
Camp: IOC Mauritius
Coach: Clement Kiprop
Team: Engineers, Thika
Five-time hurdles national champion Julius Bungei, (not related to 2006 World Indoor 800m champion, Wilfred Bungei), chose a career path that few of his compatriots inclined to athletics dare to follow. Inspired by the great United States hurdler Edwin Moses, he is simply the most recognised 400m hurdler in a country more renowned for producing middle and long distance legends.
The last born in a family of six, he grew up in a subsistence farming background, where he used to help his parents grow tea and maize. But that is where similarities with most of his countrymen who pursue athletics to escape from poverty end. For his education, the hurdler attended Kapsisiwa Primary School and later joined the Secondary School wing of the same institution for his O’ Level education where he cleared form four in 2002.
“I choose running in the hurdles since I feel comfortable when clearing them,” Bungei, who started out as a 400m runner, said. “In school, I saw others jumping over them and I thought it was fun.” He broke into the national team as a junior, appearing at the 2001 2nd IAAF/Westel World Youth Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, where he went as far as the semi-finals, finishing third in 51.81.
The following year, Bungei made the Kenya team for the 2002 World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica, where he finished seventh (51.40). He returned home to complete his O Levels and, in 2003, was promptly recruited by the Armed Forces. He began turning out for them in the Kenyan track championship series over the 110m Hurdles and his favoured event.
At the Bungoma meet in March, he ran 16.4 to finish fifth in the 110m Hurdles and 50.2 in the 400m Hurdles, placing fourth in an All Africa Games qualifying time. At the trials for the Paris World Championships he took second (50.7) but was not selected for that event or the All Africa Games that followed in Abuja.
Bungei had a busy 2004 after joining the IOC High Performance Centre in Mauritius to further his training. He toured South Africa and Europe before taking his first national title and attending the national trials for the Athens Olympics. Bungei ran 50.21 to win but his time qualified him only for the African Athletics Championships in Brazzaville, Congo. There South African, Llewellyn Herbert (48.90) forced him to accept silver in 49.56.
Bungei returned to Germany for the Bayer meet in Leverkusen where, in Brasschaat, Calewaert, he took the last podium place at the meet A race in 50.29. That marked the last time he went to Europe for competition to date. “I hope I will get a chance to compete there again,” the Army officer said before leaving for the 2008 African Championships in Addis. “It means that I have to qualify for and do well at the Beijing Olympics so that I can get noticed. Then invitations would follow.”
A second successive national 400m Hurdles title was all Bungei had to show for the 2005 season. In April, he won the 110m Hurdles race at an Athletics Kenya (AK) meet in Eldoret (14.6). At the national event in June, he ran 50.24 to scoop the crown. A week later, the national trials for the Helsinki World Championships were held and his speciality did not even feature at the programme.
“I believe that, given more support, we have runners capable of qualifying for and performing well at the World Championships and Olympics in the hurdles,” he remarked. “We are not encouraged to go places, especially Grand Prix and major international competitions.”
In 2006, Bungei’s major feats were joining the elite list of double national champions as well as lining up for his country at the 15th AAC in Mauritius. He soared to the national sprint hurdles title, his first and only, adding the 400m Hurdles in 50.1. Last year, Bungei roared to his fourth national 400m Hurdles title (50.42) but relinquished his hold on the 110H honour after taking second (14.62) to Ammon Chepsongol, the man he was to turn tables on in the lap hurdle race. That saw him board the plane to Algiers as part of the Kenyan contingent to the 9th All Africa Games where he ran his PB (49.34) to finish just outside the medals.
This year, Bungei, with Addis Ababa and Beijing in mind, travelled to South Africa where he took part in their national championships, finishing seventh (53.40). In April, he went to the 15th Mauritius International Meet where he won in 51.88 before returning home to compete in the AAC trials where he topped the field in 50.57 to book an automatic ticket for Addis.
“Kenya needs to build a sprinting camp especially for hurdlers or sponsor them to countries where facilities are available since they require specialised training,” he said. “The country has good hurdlers but they lack support. My aim in Addis Ababa is to bring a medal back home and, more importantly, qualify for the Olympics. But AK must be willing to take us there should we qualify. Nowadays, they are showing willingness to develop sprints and that is encouraging.”
400m Hurdles: 49.34 (2007)
400m Hurdles: 2002: 50.90; 2004: 49.56; 2005: 50.24; 2006: 51.37; 2007:49.34
2002 7th World Junior Championships
2004 2nd African Championships
2006 6th African Championships
Prepared by James Wokabi and Mutwiri Mutuota for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008