He may be part of the Olympic history where Kenya has reigned in the past seven editions in 3,000 metres steeplechase, but champion Brimin Kipruto wants the London Games to be unique.
After claiming the world title at the 2007 Osaka Championships, the 27-year-old Kipruto would follow up his feat with what every athlete dreams of: Winning the Olympic title.
The highlight of Kipruto’s speciality was, perhaps, his 2008 Games gold in Beijing where he warded off intruder Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad although the Frenchman ruined a probable Kenyan 1-2 sweep by denying Richard Mateelong the silver.
“It was a dream come true in Beijing to have joined eight other Kenyans – including legendary Kipchoge Keino – in our rich Olympic history in steeplechase,” said Kipruto. “However, none of them has retained or won the title twice and that is what I intend to achieve in London, God willing.”
Amos Biwott launched what would become Kenya’s trademark Olympic race with victory at the 1968 Mexico City Games, followed by Kipchoge in 1972, Julius Korir (1984), Julius Kariuki (1988), Matthew Birir (1992), Joseph Keter (1996), Reuben Kosgei (2000) and Ezekiel Kemboi (2004).
But the world silver medallist Kipruto affirmed that he was under no pressure to retain his title, having hit form just in time for London.
“I am taking it cool as I work on my speed and the techniques at the barriers,” said Kipruto, who battled a leg injury to recover in time to win silver at last year’s 2011 Daegu Worlds. “My body is in great shape and what I am doing is just to maintain the tempo.
Let’s meet in the ring
“Let us meet in the ring,” added Kipruto, recalling their 2004 feat in Athens where Kemboi, the world champion, led Kipruto and Paul Kipsiele Koech to a podium sweep.
Kemboi, Kipruto and Africa champion Abel Mutai are in the team but Kipsiele failed at the national trials. Kipruto says they know what Kemboi, who has promised a refined ‘Kemboi dance’, is capable of while Mutai’s youthful exuberance tells it all.
Coach Bonface Tiren, who has been grooming the trio in Kasarani, said of Kipruto: “He is such a calm athlete. He knows winning is easy but upholding the reign is something different.”
Kipruto started running as a pupil, reaching the nationals in both 1,500m and steeplechase in his final year in primary school in 1999. His national record at last year’s Monaco Diamond League in a personal best s7:53.64 seconds missed the world mark by 0.01.