By Rick White, Freedom New Mexico
Editor’s note: Freedom New Mexico is doing a series of articles on athletes with eastern New Mexico ties who participated in the Olympics.
Former Eastern New Mexico University cross country and track standout Mike Boit participated in the 1972 Olympics in Munich for Kenya. He won a bronze medal in the 800 meters and was fourth in the 1,500, but the experience was marred by the slaughter of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches by Palestinian terrorists.
The Olympics were his trip outside of Kenya.
On the massacre: Boit, now 60, said the Kenyan athletes were housed near the Israelis, but it wasn’t until the morning when they saw all the police that they realized something happened.
“It was kind of demoralizing. I wanted to go back home. For a while, nobody thought the Olympics would continue.”
The Olympics were postponed for one day.
The race: Boit said he was confident he was going to win the 800 meters in Munich.
He made a tactical error and that led to him being boxed in with 200 meters to go. He said he started his kick at 100 meters to go, but wasn’t able to catch winner Dave Wottle of the United States or Russia’s Yergeny Arzhanov.
He said Wottle had a “fantastic kick” and he would have started his kick early if he had known. “I was actually gaining on him.”
Boit said he thinks often of the race. “It is something hard to forget.”
Race day jitters: “I think when it came to competing, I think the stress was a little too much. The day of the (800) I didn’t want to eat breakfast or lunch. The coaches stressed to us to force ourselves to eat if we had to and eat as much as we could.”
He said he learned it was a common malady among the runners.
“I was talking to one of the athletes before the start of the race and he said he was starving.”
Benched by politics: Boit missed the 1976 and 1980 Olympics because of boycotts. Kenya boycotted the 1976 Olympics in Montreal after New Zealand broke a world boycott of South Africa’s apartheid regime and participated in a rugby competition. South Africa was banned from Olympic games. Kenya joined a U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow protesting Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.
Boit was ranked among the world’s top 800 meter runners during those years.
He took the boycotts in stride.
“It was unfortunate for me. But I still think I was lucky. If I didn’t run in the Olympics (in 1972), I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to come to the United States. I would have miss that.
“For most African runners, their only international experience is the Olympics.”
Plains spoken: Boit was recruited by ENMU track and cross country coach Bill Silverberg during a trip to Kenya.
“He told me (the eastern New Mexico region) was the closet thing to Kenya in the United States and about the high altitude. He told me I wouldn’t get swallowed up at a smaller university.
Boit said it was a good fit.
“I had a good time at ENMU. The competition was good. The school was good and the people were friendly.”
He was also recruited by Villanova and Colorado.
Two-time champ: Boit led ENMU to NAIA cross country titles in 1973 and 1974. He was the individual champion in 1974 and 1975.
Following in his footsteps: Boit’s nephews Felix Boit and Kennedy Baiywo are on ENMU’s cross country team.
Etched in time:
Boit rattled off his career best times like they happened yesterday:
• 800 meters